Christmas at the Little Village School by Jane Lovering

A teacher’s life is never easy … especially at Christmas!
Working at a tiny village school in rural Yorkshire has its own unique set of challenges – but when teachers Lydia Knight and Jake Immingham are tasked with getting the children to put on a Christmas play for the local elderly people’s home, they know they’re in for a tricky term! 

But in between choreographing sugar plum dance routines, reindeer costume malfunctions and trying to contain Rory Scott’s wannabe rap star aspirations, Lydia realises that, even as a teacher, she isn’t past being taught a couple of things – and one of those things is a much-needed lesson in Christmas spirit. 

 

 

I always enjoy Jane Lovering’s books, and this was no exception. The setting is just gorgeous – a North Yorkshire rural village, deep in snow as Christmas approaches. Perfection.

The story centres around a little school – the clue’s in the title, I suppose! Lydia is a teacher at the school, and she’s charged with putting on a Christmas play to entertain the residents of the local nursing home. Luckily, she has fellow teacher, new arrival Jake, to help her. Or is that, unluckily? Because Lydia is quite smitten with Jake, and that’s bad news for her, since she doesn’t date men. Or make friends with them, come to that. Or even make civilised conversation, most of the time. Men are strictly out of bounds, because Lydia has a self-defence system that ensures they keep well away from her. Except, it doesn’t seem to be working on Jake. He just keeps coming back for more. He’s clearly determined that the two of them will work well together and will be friends. For confused Lydia, that’s what she wants more than anything, and also what she wants least of all.

I really enjoyed the way we only discovered the reason for Lydia’s behaviour halfway through the book. By that time, I’d already got to know her and care about her, and maybe (shamefully) I’d have had a different view of her if I’d realised at the beginning. As it was, by the time her reasons were revealed, I was totally with Jake, and felt pretty much as he did. I don’t want to say any more about that, because I don’t want to give away the twist.

As always with Jane’s books, there’s lots of humour, and I loved the classroom stuff, with the preparations for the play, and the “telling it like it is”, and the fun of the dodgy costumes and wangling for more lines – and that’s just Jake.

This is a fairly short book, easy to read, and a real treat that you can devour quicker than a box of Christmas chocolates – unless you’re like me, in which case you could probably eat the chocolates much faster. But at least there are no calories in this, and it will leave you feeling all happy and festive and contented, whereas the chocolates will just leave you feeling guilty and probably a little bit nauseous. So ditch the chocs and buy this fabulous little book instead. It’s another winner from Jane.  5/5

You can buy Christmas at the Little Village School here.

The Art of Christmas by Jane Lovering

I think The Art of Christmas is, quite possibly, the perfect Christmas story. For a start, unlike a lot of “Christmas” books, it is actually set at Christmas. The story starts just ten days before the big day, and continues until the twenty-fifth of December. There is snow. There is a Christmas tree. There are mince pies (sort of!) and even a mention of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – not to mention a rather leaky dog, wearing antlers. I’m not making this up, honestly. This book shouts Christmas and really gets you into the spirit of the occasion.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there is romance, a bit of a mystery, and several mentions of Doctor Who. No wonder I think it’s perfect! Seriously, the minute I started reading this, I was pulled into the life of the heroine, Harriet – a young widow, whose husband, Jonno, died unexpectedly around eighteen months previously. Harriet has decided that, this year, she will acknowledge Christmas, so we find her, at the start of the story, venturing into the loft to rescue the Christmas tree. Luckily for Harriet, she finds more than a Christmas tree up there. Stumbling across a pile of comic books she didn’t know her husband possessed, she takes them downstairs and, despite her lack of interest in the books that Jonno was so passionate about, she finds herself flicking through the pages.
Having sold most of her husband’s collection to a dealer the previous year, she calls him again, asking if he can price up this latest discovery. Kell remembers the fragile young widow and offers to come round to her house to take a look at them. Having struggled through a loss of his own, the two of them have an instant connection, and an easy rapport. But Kell also remembers Jonno, and a chance remark throws doubt on everything Harriet thought she knew. If she’s to have any kind of future, she has to find out the truth about her past, so, like Corinthia, the comic book heroine who bears a remarkable resemblance to her, Harriet gathers her courage, strides out into an uncertain world, and confronts the unknown.
The Art of Christmas is just gorgeous. Harriet’s grief is so beautifully described that I had a lump in my throat as I read. Kell is a fantastic hero – laid back and casual, decent and honest. I loved his relationship with his crazy dog, Frodo, his passion for and knowledge of comic books and their artists, his easy manner, his rather unexpected socks. Most of all, I loved the understanding and patience he shows Harriet.
This is just the book to read to get you in the mood for Christmas. If you’re feeling a bit “bah, humbug”, pick up this little gem of a book, and I guarantee you’ll be craving mince pies and egg nog before you reach the end. And looking forward to the Doctor Who special even more, of course! Merry Christmas!

You can buy The Art of Christmas here

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