Matt Lucas is a British actor and comedian best known for his work with David Walliams on the BBC comedy series Little Britain. He has previously published two picture books for charity and several joke books, but The Boy Who Slept Through Christmas is his first fiction novel.
Ten-year-old Leo is obsessed with Christmas – and this one has to be especially magical, because it’s the first one since his mum died. However, all the tasks on Leo’s self-imposed to-do list go pear-shaped… from crafting a unique Christmas-themed board game to baking five different cakes to suit everyone’s dietary restrictions. (As the mother of a ten-year-old boy, I have to say that even though the storyline contains actual magical elements, this absurdly ambitious to-do list was the most unrealistic aspect of the story for me! I would have believed it if the main character was a forty-year-old mum, though…)
Halfway through the book, Leo is so fed up that, on Christmas Eve, he wishes it all away. When he awakes, regretting his outburst, it’s the day after Christmas – he’s completely missed out on all the festivities. Leo sets out to find the Santa he saw at the mall (before he returns to the North Pole) and beg him for a do-over. Compared to the somewhat predictable first half (which I forgave due to the delightfully humorous narrative voice), the plot really hits its stride in this second half, offering up some unexpected locations and plenty of roadblocks between Leo and his goal.
A unique aspect of this book is its incorporation of musical numbers, also written by Matt Lucas and accessed via QR codes placed throughout the text. However, while the songs sound great, I found they interrupted my reading flow too much. After the first (10-minute!) song, I chose to read the lyrics in the back matter rather than listen to the rest of the songs. Note that one song does contain a key plot point that isn’t in the text – a potential downside for readers who don’t have access to a device.
Forrest Burdett’s pitch-perfect illustrations add greatly to the reading experience, as do some excellent design elements – e.g. large font for particular lines of dialogue and some black pages with white text. This humorous and uplifting story will be enjoyed by fans of contemporary middle grade stories featuring a glimmer of magic and themes of grief, family love and the spirit of Christmas.