Article/page published: 09 January 2017
Last updated: 14 January 2017
An old man was coming down the lane. His hair and beard were as white as cotton wool.
Old Father Christmas tells the story of two children who really do meet Father Christmas. It is a re-telling of a Victorian story by Juliana Horatia Ewing. She and her mother, Mrs. Gatty, wrote and collected stories for children, and her most famous novel is called Jackanapes. It may seem strange to re-tell a published story, but the publishers, Collins, felt that although the original story is wonderfully appealing, the language and style make it a little difficult to understand these days. They asked me to tell it in a simple, more direct way, and although I hesitated at first (because it seemed such a cheek) I agreed with them that it was such a lovely story that it would be a shame if children today didn’t have a chance to read it. So I’ve kept very close to Juliana’s story, and maintained the Victorian atmosphere and the voice of the writer. Maria Teresa Meloni has illustrated it so beautifully that I think you can really imagine yourself back in 1870, when it was first written.
Another reason why I was so very pleased to agree to this project was because Juliana lived in a Yorkshire village called Ecclesfield. I taught for a time in the local school there. Ecclesfield is now part of Sheffield, where I lived for twenty six years, so I feel very close to her.
One of my other picture books, Our Field, was also originally written by Juliana Horatia Ewing.