Friday, 14 August 2015

Summer of Children's Classics - My Favourite Classic Children’s Book by Benjamin Scott

“Mr Hawlings will give you a much older version of the Punch and Judy play, which his grandfather used to play upon the roads.”

As for many readers these days, I can’t remember if I read the book or saw the amazing BBC adaption first, but my children’s classic of choice is The Box of Delights by John Masefield. My yellow Puffin paperback version of the book was probably a little battered when I first got it, but I’ve poured over it many times since including, one December, reading it aloud with my wife.

Of the tales about Kay Harker, The Box of Delights, a sequel to The Midnight Folk, is the more successful of the two books. It’s a faster paced and a more exciting story with higher stakes. Mr Cole Hawlings entrusts the magical Box of Delights to Kay Hawker to stop the box falling into the hands of Abner Brown and the ‘wolves’ that are after it. Kay must use the box’s powers, which allows the owner to shrink, fly and enter the past, to save the Punch and Judy man and defeat the evil gang who are ‘scrobbling’ the clergy of Tatchester Cathedral threatening the Millennial Christmas Service.

Even though the story is rooted in the era between the wars, with delightful 1930s words and phrases, its universal message makes it a classic worth keeping. Known as a quintessential Christmas story, really it is more of tale for midwinter. Despite the present of clergymen and cathedrals, Masefield’s story stretches back into the misty pagan past, featuring such heralds of good as Herne the Hunter. As daylight begins to lose ground, then rapidly retreat between now and the winter solstice, here is a tale that tells us that light will triumph over darkness, that there is hope even as winter closes in. Kay, an ordinary schoolboy, shows that anyone can play a part in keeping light in the world.

It’s time to lay your hands on a copy of The Box of Delights and sometime after Halloween start reading it. You won’t regret it.

Benjamin Scott is the ghost-author of eight books (including five books in the Star Fighters series by Max Chase). A creative writing tutor, he’s taught at a range of schools and organisations, including the Oxford University Continuing Education Department and Swanwick, the Writers’ Summer School. He also mentors other writers through his critiquing and editorial service. His agent is Gillie Russell at Aitken Alexander Associates. 

Ben can be found on Twitter: @Benjamin_Scott
His web site is:

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