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New Sky Arts film features Queen Mary culture expertise

Following this summer’s hit Wonderland series, Sky TV has created a Christmas special episode, exploring festive themes in the golden age of children’s literature with expert input from the director of Queen Mary’s Centre for Childhood Cultures.

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Queen Mary’s Professor Kiera Vaclavik is interviewed alongside other esteemed experts such as literary critic Peter Hunt, writer Brian Sibley and former Children’s Laureate Sir Michael Morpurgo - who wrote The Best Christmas Present in the World, a spellbinding tale of one soldier’s experience in the trenches and the truce struck on 25 December 1914.

The documentary offers a festive reflection on classic novels and poems, from famous works like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the holiday pantomime favourite Peter Pan to JRR Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas and Rudyard Kipling’s Nativity. Viewers can get a new perspective on these well-known Christmas stories through a combination of author biographies with literary extracts, quotations and clips from the films they’ve inspired.

As well as sharing her expertise on Alice in Wonderland - and the manuscript the author gave to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift, which is now held in the British Library archives - Prof Vaclavik discusses the festive elements of Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, a prolific author with many other children’s books also set at Christmastime.

Prof Vaclavik explained: “We discussed what Christmas can mean and how children’s stories convey that – depicting festive traditions and different ways of celebrating, creating a sense of community and culture, teaching children about faith and hope… but also the challenges that can be presented by the holiday, which can highlight social inequalities and make people feel losses more deeply.

“Like the earlier Wonderland films, this new programme does not gloss over harsh realities and dark elements of children’s literature, but instead shines a light on the incredible power of good writing to help young minds grasp these complex issues.”

Learn more from Prof Vaclavik and other children’s literature experts in ‘Wonderland: The Story of Christmas’ on Sky Arts this Friday (23 December) at 7pm.

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