Jenny's picture book review: 'Lucy & Tom's Christmas' by Shirley Hughes

I don't know whether there is some intrinsic to Shirley Hughes' figure drawings that exudes familiarity, or if I just spent a lot of my childhood looking at them. It is at least partly the latter as when I rediscovered my collection of Lucy and Tom books, probably about 25 years after they were put aside, I was overwhelmed - I knew every page inside out.  I still think however, with all the tiny details, she captures something special about childhood we can all recognise.

Lucy & Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes

Lucy and Tom's Christmas is my favourite and to me IS Christmas (even though Christmas never really resembled what it depicts, it seems like a very feasible  and achievable Christmas). It's a low key Christmas - there are no feasts or giant Christmas trees or extravagant gifts - they make paper chains and hand made Christmas cards and stir the Christmas pudding. Kirstie Allsopp should take note - if you want a true 'vintage' Christmas, you'd do well to imitate this book (no inherited country pile or £100 ham required, nor 'experts' who do it all for you).

Lucy & Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes

(There is something about the paint box on this page that makes me feel so warm and fuzzy ; perhaps it's because when I was this age painting Christmas cards was my idea of heaven... still is to some extent!)

Various family come to lunch, including 'Granny's old friend Mrs Barlow who lives all by herself' and everyone is happy with their small, thoughtful gifts - who hasn't presented a handmade calendar to an elderly relative in a wing back arm chair? (the detail of the little stick-on calendar at the bottom places this book firmly in the pre-computer era - we all proudly brought them home! And those pencils that changed colour!).

Lucy & Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes

Hughes is particularly strong at capturing the relationship between generations which is maybe why it is so infused with Christmas spirit.

Lucy & Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes
Lucy & Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes
Lucy & Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes

My favourite part is when Tom, half eaten chocolate in hand, gets 'cross' and has to go out for a walk with Grandpa. The sun is orange, there's snow under foot; even though this is a 'perfect' Christmas scene poor Tom can't quite cope with it all. As the youngest child I remember being accused a lot of being 'overtired' (was there ever any accusation more infuriating?) and Tom helped me understand something about this and the fact that even when you're really looking forward to something you can still end up in tears.


Sadly this book is out of print, but I highly recommend tracking down a copy: It celebrates what Christmas is really all about with not a little nostalgia. Merry Christmas everyone!

Lucy & Tom's Christmas by Shirley Hughes