Toy Story in fast-forward.
Publication date: 1st December 2015
Publisher: Nova Sky Books
Considering I was accosted by ‘elves’ handing out mince pies on the street only the other day, I figure it’s time to crack out the Christmas books. What better, then, than a novel about beloved Christmas decorations that come alive when we’re not looking.
Although the premise may not be entirely original, the execution is excellent, and York’s take on the classic childhood desire for living toys is special. Perhaps going a little too quickly at times – I would have liked to see more of the Sarah character, experienced more of her interactions with Tallulah – the end result is a novel which highlights the timelessness of those decorations that stay in the family through generations.
The narrative focuses in on Tallulah, a decorative fairy meant to go at the top of a Christmas tree. The reader is then taken through her experience of self-awareness, meeting other decorations like herself, and living in storage with other festive creatures. Something like three decades pass during the short novel – hence, my feeling that it is a bit too quick – yet perhaps that allows the reader to fully understand the experience of the decorations; they only see snapshots of the Andersons’ life in their designated holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Easter).
The conflict is resolved in an ode to friendship, yet oddly tinged with bittersweet resignation. I think this is the most interesting and original aspect of York’s work, and where it differs significantly from equivalents like Toy Story – the ability for the ‘decoration’ characters to accept their role as seasonal. Being in storage is not a punishment, but a state of being. It is simply when they are deprived of their chance for a ‘holiday’ that they take matters into their own hands. It leaves the reader with a sense of contentedness which concludes the novel wonderfully.
The pull of this story is certainly more one of emotional engagement than one based on suspense, which is comforting in a Christmas story. For children, it’s the secret hope of proof that toys really do come alive at night, and for adults it recreates the memory of excitement of Christmas time and the fine line between decoration and toy.
I recommend it as classic feel-good Christmas story with an emotional twist, for children with fine sensibilities, and a love for festivities and friendship stories. For adults, it hits the nostalgia chords, combining the childhood experience of Christmas with the separation that necessarily comes with adulthood.