Series review: Christmas by Matt Haig
As I mentioned during my review of Tinsel of Sibéal Pounder, I spent the last week of December reading a bunch of Christmas middle grades which included the complete series of Christmas books by Matt Haig! I have already talked about them a little bit in my December wrap up over on my Booktube channel, but I enjoyed these stories so much that I also wanted to write a post recommending them.
My thoughts on all three books are quite similar, so I’m going to write a brief synopsis of each book (as spoiler-free as I can make them!) and then share my thoughts on the series as a whole at the bottom of this post.
A Boy Called Christmas
The first book in the Christmas series introduces a young boy called Nikolas, who lives with his father in a cottage in the Finnish woods. Nikolas’s father goes away on a quest to try to find Elfhelm, hoping that the discovery will bring him riches so that he will finally be able to give Nikolas the Christmas that he deserves.
However, Nikolas’s father leaves him in the care of his cruel Aunt Carlotta. Carlotta bullies Nikolas, trying to force him to grow up, so Nikolas decides to run away from home to try and help his father find Elfhelm.
Unfortunately, when Nikolas catches up with his father he discovers that sometimes adults aren’t really who you think they are…
The Girl Who Saved Christmas
In the second book in the Christmas series, we follow a girl called Amelia. Towards the end of the first book, Nikolas becomes Father Christmas (in a chain of events which are far too spoilery to expand on!), creates Christmas and is preparing to embark on his first adventure around the world, and the first child that he visits is Amelia.
Unfortunately, Amelia has a terrible year, and she ends up losing all of her hope. Due to the loss of such an intense source of hope, Christmas looks as though it might be impossible this year… Until Father Christmas decides that he’s going to track Amelia down and discover why she’s lost so much hope this year.
Father Christmas and Me
The third book in the series also follows Amelia, who is having trouble fitting in. An outcast who doesn’t seem to have any natural talent, Amelia struggles to stay positive. She’s worried that she’ll end up being a burden to Father Christmas, who has become a surrogate father of sorts, so she tries to run away. Unfortunately, we already know what happens when Amelia begins to lose hope…
I enjoyed Matt Haig’s take on the Christmas story, but unfortunately I didn’t quite love it.
The main reason for this is that there are a few little inconsistencies between the stories. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if we didn’t read them so close together – and I don’t think that they would be memorable or hamper the enjoyment of a younger audience – but it threw me out of the story enough that I didn’t feel as though I was able to award them five stars.
However, this series is perfect for the younger audience that it is written for. There are enough hilariously absurd antics going on to keep younger readers turning the pages late into the night, so you will want to make sure you don’t read these as bedtime stories, but there are also strong morals throughout.
Matt Haig makes these stories magical yet bittersweet, injecting a sense of realism into this series. In that respect they remind me of Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans, which are extremely funny stories with some sad moments that brought a tear to my eye. The focus on keeping hope even in your darkest days is an inspiring one – perfect for reading in these awful times – and I loved the way that he explored the huge impact that even one individual can have.
The illustrations by Chris Mould are mildly unsettling at times, but also laugh-out-loud hilarious, meaning that these books are perfect for readers who enjoy Tim Burton’s creepy illustration style in A Nightmare Before Christmas or Frankenweenie.
Each of the stories feels very different – the first is a polar adventure in the depths of Finland, the second is primarily set in Victorian London while the third has an utterly magical setting – so you would be able to pick any of these up and still enjoy it, but I would recommend reading them in order to experience the full impact of the series as it unfolds.
Matt Haig has also written two other books in this universe – The Truth Pixie and The Truth Pixie Goes to School – which unfortunately I haven’t been able to get hold of yet, but the Truth Pixie is a standout character in this cast (a pixie with an irresistible urge to spout the truth, even if it gets her into a lot of trouble!) so I will be picking those up at some point in the future too.
If you’re yet to read any of Matt Haig’s novels, start here. His middle grade is easily digestible, but it still has the same heart and soul that you’ll find in his novels for adults. If you love these ones and you are an older reader, you’ll definitely love The Midnight Library, which was one of the best books I read last year.
I borrowed this entire series from the library, but I’ll definitely be purchasing copies to read with my little ones when they are a bit older. These will bring the Christmas magic to life and make it even more exciting when Father Christmas visits on Christmas day!
I hope you enjoyed this review. See you soon with another one,