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5 Stories From Classic Children's Literature You’ll Want to Revisit This Christmas

“What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood?”

Pull down the windows and draw the curtains tight; keep winter’s cold hand from the door. Find an old woollen jumper and an even older armchair—one that lost its spring a lifetime ago. Pile up the logs and watch them glow, let candlelight paint silhouettes of a household gathered around a decorated tree. All that’s missing from this picture-perfect Christmas scene is a good book and a willingness to get lost in the nostalgia of childhood. 

As we head boldly into the depths of winter, we can think of no better way to embrace the magic of the season than reacquainting ourselves with old friends from the pages of classic children’s literature.

So, let us take you on a journey, through the rolling English countryside, where mischievous rabbits run wild through neatly-tended vegetable patches and gentlemen foxes hatch their plans on the brooding Cumberland moors. We'll stop off at Wonderland along the way, being sure to meet the mysterious, larger-than-life characters who call it home; before a final visit to Ancient Greece for some timeless cautionary tales. Here, dear reader, are five stories from classic children's literature that you'll want to revisit over the festive season.

peter rabbit garden sculpture

1. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter (1901)

“Even the smallest one can change the world.”

Perhaps Beatrix Potter’s most beloved story; certainly her most famous. A quintessential cautionary tale, a warning for those wayward children about the consequences of their actions. The Tale of Peter Rabbit follows the daring adventures of the titular blue-jacketed hero and his wanton desire to ignore his mother’s advice and sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden. 

The original story of Peter Rabbit was written in 1893, as an illustrated letter intended to lift the spirits of a sickly boy named Noel Moore, the son of Potter's former governess. From that letter, Potter developed the plot and self-published her enduring tale in the winter of 1901.

mad hatter water feature

2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1865)

“The proper order of things is often a mystery to me.”

At the heart of Lewis Carroll’s enduring masterpiece we meet Alice, a precocious young Victorian girl; never afraid to speak her mind or point out absurdity when she encounters it. 

After dozing off in a meadow, Alice's dreams send her in hot pursuit of a pocket watch-carrying White Rabbit and into a string of charmingly nonsensical adventures. A foul-tempered Queen of Hearts, a hookah-smoking Caterpillar, a Sleepy Gryphon, a riddle-posing Cheshire Cats, an endless tea party with the Mad Hatter and March Hare; the cast of memorable characters from Carroll's classic tale have been enchanting both adults and children alike for nearly two centuries.

3. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, Beatrix Potter (1908)

“I wish to hatch my own eggs; I will hatch them all by myself.”

Taking inspiration from the classic European fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, written by Charles Perrault, the plot of The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck is set in motion when a farmer's wife forbids any ducks from laying their eggs on the farm.

Perturbed but full of resources and courage, Jemima Puddle-Duck plans to find sanctuary in a wood clearing, far away from the farm, to carry out nature’s work. Upon finding the clearing, however, Jemima meets a smartly-dressed ‘gentleman’ who insists she can lay her eggs in his shed. Little does Jemima Puddle-Duck realise, the gentleman is in fact a treacherous fox who has roast duck on the menu!

jemima puddle duck garden sculpture

4. The Tale of Mr. Tod, Beatrix Potter (1912)

“Nobody could call Mr. Tod ‘nice.’ The rabbits could not bear him; they could smell him half a mile off!”

One of Beatrix Potter’s darkest tales, set in a dour Cumberland landscape of stone, thickets, and moonlit woodland, where the characters, plot, and foreboding atmosphere have all the markings of classic crime fiction. 

The Tale of Mr. Tod is a thrilling adventure that reprises the characters of Benjamin Bunny—now fully grown, and married to Flopsy—and Peter Rabbit. The story unfolds as Mr. Bouncer, Benjamin’s father, has been left in charge of his grandchildren and unwisely invites Tommy Brock, a villainous badger, into their home.

False moves lead to disaster, as Mr. Bouncer falls asleep and Brock abducts the bunnies with the dastardly intention of making them into his supper. A courageous Benjamin and Peter hurry to rescue the children, but Brock is eventually thwarted by his arch-nemesis, the gentleman fox, Mr. Tod.

jemima puddle duck and mr tod garden sculptures

5. The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, Aesop Fables (circa 620-560 BCE)

"For every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg."

While details of Aesop’s life remain somewhat of a mystery, the Ancient Greek storyteller's cautionary tale of The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs is one that's survived generations and continues to provide valuable life lessons today.

When a countryman and his wife discover that their Goose is able to lay a golden egg each day, they begin to wonder how much treasure might be hidden inside their rare and magical bird. Foolish decisions lead to disaster, however, as the poor Goose meets its downfall at the hand of the countryman's knife...and, of course, there is no fortune to be found!

the goose that laid the golden eggs

Posted on December 16th 2022

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