"Letters from Father Christmas" (Houghton Mifflin, $15), is a compilation of letters J. R. R. Tolkien wrote to his three children, one each December. Enclosed were tales of life...

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“Letters from Father Christmas” (Houghton Mifflin, $15), is a compilation of letters J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his three children, one each December. Enclosed were tales of life at the North Pole, illustrated with Tolkien’s spidery handwriting and iconic, evocative drawings.

“Sometimes the envelopes, dusted with snow and bearing Polar postage stamps, were found in the house on the morning after his (Father Christmas’) visit; sometimes the postman brought them; and the letters that the children wrote themselves vanished from the fireplace when no one was about,” according to the brief introduction to this new edition. The letters continued to arrive for more than 20 years (from 1920 to 1943), populated by stories of “Snow-elves, Red Gnomes, Snow-men, Cave-bears, and the Polar Bears’ nephews, Paksu and Valkotukka, who came on a visit and never went away.”

An incomparable gift for his children, these letters remain a token of Tolkien’s imagination, well into a new century.

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Happy holidays —


Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times book editor