The joy of book tokens for Christmas and a world of new books - Ian McMillan

Here’s the young Ian McMillan writing his thank you letters,

Receiving book tokens at Christmas brings back happy memories for Ian McMillan.

his Boxing Day ritual before all the McMillans set off to see Uncle Jack and Auntie Mary and their daughter Josephine in Sheffield like they do every Boxing Day for a vast tea; at some point, Uncle Jack will get out a fake rubber jam tart and that’ll be time to go home but that’s another story which young Ian hasn’t got time to tell because he’s got his tongue sticking out and he’s grasping a Bic biro and he’s doing his neatest writing on sheets of Churston Deckle writing paper.

“Dear Uncle Jimmy, thank you very much for the Broons Annual which I’ll enjoy reading very much. Yours truly Ian.”

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You’re right: this letter isn’t a great example of the epistolatory art, but Ian’s got lots to write. You might be thinking that “Yours truly” is an odd way for a ten-year-old to end a letter, but since Ian saw his dad signing a letter that way, that’s how he always does it. Truly he does.

Ah, the Broons Annual! Young Ian loves The Broons; they’re a family who live in a Scottish tenement and they feature each week in a cartoon strip in the Sunday Post newspaper.

There’s Paw and Ma and Grandpa and the kids: Hen, Joe, Daphne, Maggie, Horace, the Twins and the Bairn and they get into scrapes and daft things happen to them and they use phrases like “jings!” and “crivvens”.

Every other year there’s a Broons annual which is one of the highlights of young Ian’s Christmas; in the alternate years there’s an Oor Wullie annual featuring the eponymous Wullie and his mates Soapy Soutar, Wee Eck and Fat Boab and, although Ian likes these, he really likes The Broons best.

Young Ian starts another thank you letter. “Dear Auntie Mary and Uncle Jack and Josephine. Thank you very much for the book tokens which I will use to get some more Biggles books. Yours truly, Ian.”

Yes, this is the same Auntie Mary and Uncle Jack and Josephine that he will be seeing later today and he could just thank them in person but he’s been told to write a letter and that’s what he’s doing.

The young Ian loves book tokens. The idea of getting a special piece of currency that you can exchange for the printed word feels almost mystical and he’ll be off to the shops soon to get at least one Biggles book, and probably more.

The Biggles books, about flying ace James Bigglesworth and his mates Ginger, Algy and Bertie, are a big part of Ian’s reading life.

They’re exciting, a bit scary at times and Biggles never seems to age. Young Ian is hoping to get Biggles and the Blue Moon and Biggles and the Gun Runners. He can’t wait.

If you got books and book tokens for Christmas, like I always have and always will, happy reading and happy exchanging!