Billy Christmas, a novel by Mark Pritchard
Billy Christmas is a boy with a man’s problems. Since his father disappeared mysteriously last Christmas, Billy’s mom has withdrawn into her grief, neglecting him and everything else. Now, in addition to his schoolwork, Billy must also keep the household running for both of them, paying the bills from their ever-dwindling bank account. Meanwhile, his father’s departure has become the chief topic of conversation in the small town of Marlow, and most of Billy’s classmates either ignore or bully him. He relies on his best friend Katherine for strength, and on his own inner certainty that somewhere, somehow, his father is still alive and wants to come home. Then, twelve days before Christmas, Billy is given a magical challenge, a series of twelve difficult and dangerous tasks. If he completes them all, his dream of being reunited with his missing dad might come true.
Mark Pritchard is a writer in the tradition of well-loved British and American authors, from E. B. White to Madeleine L’Engle, from J. R. R. Tolkien to J. K. Rowling, whose books, though directed at the young, capture the hearts and minds of readers of all ages.
This is a book destined to be battered, much thumbed, read and read again until its pages come loose. It will graduate into the packing crate going off to college, then to the shelves at home, because Pritchard treats his young audience with emotional and literary respect. Pritchard understands that children’s emotions are as genuine as those of their parents, dark and foreboding in places, but never without hope. — James Clark, writer and former Sunday Times journalist