Big Fat Christmas Book (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary and Martin Brown
|Big Fat Christmas Book (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary and Martin Brown|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Sam Tyler|
|Summary: Christmas comes, but once a year: join Rattus as he takes you on a journey through the Days of Christmas in a way that only Terry Deary could think of.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 120||Date: October 2014|
|Publisher: Scholastic Press|
|External links: Author's website|
I was reading Terry Deary before he even started writing the ‘Horrible History’ franchise. It seems that as I grew out of children’s non-fiction just as he exploded in popularity, selling millions of books in the series and even spawning a successful TV show (that I admit to watching). It has been years since the first Horrible History book, but they are still popular enough to produce an annual of sorts, but is this a case of annual horribilis?
I used to love getting an annual each year, for me it was the Beano. If I had received the Horrible Histories Big Fat Christmas Book, I may have not been quite as excited. The item itself is of very high quality; lush pages, full colour, hardback and a chunky looking read. However, as any passionate reader is taught from an early age; never judge an annual by the quality of the paper it is printed on.
Like most Horrible History books, Fat Christmas is based on a single theme for Deary (and I assume at this point, a series of researchers) to get his teeth into. The theme is of course, Easter. I jest – its Christmas. Not a bad subject matter for a historian to investigate, there have been 2014 or so of them so far. However, like a mixed metaphor, any rich seam of material begins to run dry if you keep returning to the well and this is not the first Christmas themed annual from Horrible History and you can tell.
The book is not packed to the gills with historic titbits that you’d expect from the series and is actually pretty sparsely furnished for such an impressively sized book. Rather than fun factoids, the book is given over largely to full page images of Rattus the mascot. Although the rat is amusing, Martin Brown’s illustrations dominate the book and leave little room for the actual material. When the material does arrive you also get the impression that it may have been gleaned from other books in the series and compiled here.
Another element that stood out is how happy Deary is to court controversy. The book is split into sections that are linked to the Days of Christmas. One of the early segments of the book discusses the origins of the festival and hints that Christianity may have piggybacked on the earlier Pagan winter festivals. Depending on your personal feelings, this may be an interesting topic to discuss with your preteen children, or one can of worms you would rather save for another day. I don’t mind a little controversy and my relatives are inquisitive, therefore this section did not overly bother me. What did bother was the lack of much more meat after this. There is fun information in the book, just nowhere near as much as you would get from picking up one of the normal titles in the series.
As a stocking filler that will entertain for a day, Horrible Histories Big Fat Christmas Book just about does the job. What it lacks is the deluge of fun information which made the series so popular in the first place and why I rate Deary’s True Tales so highly in my memory some 20 years after they were written. A missed opportunity.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Beastly Best Bits (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss.
You can read more book reviews or buy Big Fat Christmas Book (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary and Martin Brown at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Big Fat Christmas Book (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary and Martin Brown at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.