More Xmas children:The Party

Every December on the blog I feature Xmas scenes and Xmas books with some nice pictures – I never seem to run out, but am still open to ideas and suggestions.

If you use Pinterest you can see some of the beautiful seasonal pictures on this page, and you can find (endless!) more Xmas books via the labels at the bottom of the page

Crowns by Katharine Hull and Pamela Whitlock

published 1947

[A Christmas party for children]

Rob and Eliza made a pact to stick together.

They stood apart from the bouncing throng of big boys in long suits, medium boys in short suits, small boys in silk shirts and coloured pants, of girls in flickering dresses of stiff organdie, soft crepe-de-chine, crisp net, lush velvet. Eliza felt terrified of them all, she wished she didn’t have to join in; she would have been happier to hide all afternoon behind the curtains and just be able to watch the beautiful reflections of light and colour in the mirrors, where the scintillating chandeliers were multiplied, and the bunches of balloons, shining so richly and ripely that they almost seemed edible.

comments: I did a post on this book last year, after blogfriend Ann Philips introduced me to it – she said then
If you can find a copy I suggest reading it near Christmas as there's some good Christmassy details.
So I dug it out again and it is actually a beautifully seasonal read. It is half a realistic picture of middle class children getting ready for Christmas, and half a fantasy in which they are transported to a magical land where they are kings and queens. I loved the realistic bits much more than the other half – the details of their lives and the child-friendly descriptions of events, thoughts and conversations were so good. The children are excited about the end of term - the ones who attend a day school are accompanied home by the maid. They look forward to seeing each other with convincingly mixed feelings. There are great descriptions of the country home of one family, with icy roads and a walk out across the fields to collect holly for decorating the house. Other children live in London, and the city is portrayed in its festive glory.

I found this description of it online, though can’t tell where it came from:

“This is about four ordinary, quite nice, quite nasty children. They are cousins and know each other well, though two live in London and two in the country. They don't catch spies, or find treasure, or camp alone, or do anything at all extraordinary. They do go to school during the term and come home in the holidays, and go to bed at night and get up in the morning. Like everyone else they talk a lot, and often imagine impossible things when they are in the midst of possible ones..... The four cousins meet on Boxing Day when their Grandmother gives a party. In this world of crackers and balloons and Christmas trees they have to behave in the normal way with everyone else, but when they are alone they can take each other into the world which is in their minds and become there crowned kings and queens and do exactly as they like.”

I think it quite odd to boast of their not catching spies or doing anything out of the ordinary when they are about to become kings and queens. The Crowns of the title could  surely be considered treasure to be found.

Anyway, it is actually one of the most Christmas-sy books I have ever read, and I loved those descriptions.

My first post on the book deals with some other thoughts I had – the Arthur Ransome connection, the Narnia question, and my guess that the authors might have written it some time before publication.

Children’s party picture from the NYPL collection.

The b/w photo shows children saying Grace before a Xmas party in 1952.

The painting is one I used on the earlier post on this book: it is by Thomas Cooper Gotch from The Athenaeum.


  1. That's a really interesting description of the book, Moira. And the writing style really gets my attention, too; those are some great vivid descriptions. I also have to say I give credit to authors who can move back and forth between a real-world scenario and a fantasy scenario. That is not easy.

    1. Thanks Margot, yes, the authors do some aspects of this very well. And as you and I have long agreed, just the details of daily life in the past, as written in a contemporary novel, are always fascinating.

  2. The description you found online is one the inside flap of my copy's jacket; I suspect it was written by the authors themselves.
    I love the realistic sections of the book much more now than I did as a child - they're really very well written compared to the middle section. I wonder if the middle section was the remains of a story they'd written when they were children themselves, and then as adults having published the three Oxus books, they wondered how they could resurrect their old fantasy story and came up with the idea of sandwiching it between the lives of real children at Christmas. My favourite parts are Andrew and Charlotte's bits, they're so evocative of a childhood that was so boringly normal to them but so different from my own.

    1. That's very interesting about the cover flap - what an unusual blurb!
      And I agree with every single other word that you say: you sum it up well. It is enjoyable for reasons that the original authors couldn't have guessed. They probably thought they should put more exotic bits in it, while you and I are loving the everyday details. Thanks so much for recommending it - I loved it, but might well never have come across it. As I say above, one of the most Christmas-y books I have ever read.


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