Like The Woman in Black this is a story about stolen children.
Charles Manx takes children away from parents he deems inadequate, and carries them off in his vintage Rolls Royce to Christmasland, a twisted never land of his own imagining.
Only Victoria McQueen has the means to stop him, as she can also travel the unseen roads to Christmasland. When Manx takes her son, she has to get him back before the journey to Christmasland changes him forever.
This book has always appealed to me because of jolliness of Christmas being spliced with the terrible. Snowmen decapitate each other and the sleigh coaster does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin.
Manx too is both sinister and goofy. A benevolent ringmaster with the physical similarities between the 1930s film version of Nosferatu. (Get it?)
Reading this book also came at the same time I’d become obsessed with teaching Baby Pumpkin body safety, and found something repulsively wrong about Manx calling a boy’s penis a fiddlestick. Not that there is any sexual assault on children in this book (Manx is asking the boy if he needs to pee).
The cruelty to children comes instead from Manx’s parenting style, which lacks empathy (the road to Christmasland takes away fear and sadness) and focuses on giving children exactly what they want, rather than what they need.
This makes Manx the parent of over 100 self-interested, undisciplined and violent brats who like to pull the legs of moths and gouge the eyes out of adults with scissors. Imagine sitting next to that family in a restaurant.
Manx is a true villain that believes that he is doing the best for his stolen children.
Then there is the parenting style of Vic McQueen, alcoholic and drug addict, who has been absent for most of her son’s early life. She struggles to do the right thing, and she is not always an easy character to like. She can, however, admit that she has messed up and needs to change.
She is an Imperfect parent doing the best she can with the resources she has. Aren’t we all?
This book is extra scary because the stealing of children gets under your skin, and I am particularly sensitive to other people judging my parenting skills at the moment. As Christmas is on the way, I’d better watch out.