Book Advent – 5th December The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

It is Christmas Eve and that all important question looms large…Have you been good this year? Will Father Christmas bring you presents? Of course he will, he always does. Or will he? For twin sisters Sam and Charlie this is a big worry because Charlie has been, well Charlie has been quite naughty sometimes.

Empty Stocking cover

This Christmas offering by award winning director Richard Curtis is a delight, both funny and thoughtful with a brilliant twist that lifts it to something quite touching and really rather special. Sam and Charlie are introduced to the reader as twins who look exactly the same but as children they couldn’t be more different. Sam is always very well behaved and Charlie on the other hand tends to be a bit disobedient, sometimes grumpy and not fond of always telling the truth. On Christmas Eve as the family prepare to go to bed the knowledge that Charlie may not have been quite good enough niggles away in the background. During the night all the things that you expect to happen in a Christmas book occur: Father Christmas arrives in the garden in his sleigh, clambers down the chimney and tiptoes through the house and leaves presents in one stocking. Yes, one stocking! Father Christmas has been tough this year. A little later Charlie wakes up… I won’t spoil the fun by saying what happens next but it’s brilliant.

When I read this aloud to young children they become absorbed in the story and their expressions as it progresses show how much they understand and care about what happens.  This book would be brilliant for prompting discussions about behaviour and being too quick to judge people. It would probably work best with children of about 5 or 6 and older as I’m not sure that younger ones would fully understand the events. The question of whether people can be described as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is tackled with tact and care and I found the way in which the other side of the story was gradually revealed very well done. This could be used in school assemblies or PSHE lessons very successfully as it has always prompted a thoughtful response when I read it aloud in the school library.

I love the illustrations by Rebecca Cobb which suit the text so perfectly and as in all the best picture books add more to the story.  She has managed to capture the children’s characters brilliantly and the emotions are conveyed wonderfully.  The house looks like a family home and everything about it feels warm and secure.

The Empty Stocking

This has rapidly become one of my favourite Christmas picture books. It is a charming combination of humour, warmth and thoughtfulness which feels just right for this time of year.

Puffin Books have produced a video of the beginning of The Christmas Stocking being read by Dawn Finch which you may like to share. However I do think it’s worth investing in the book itself.

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