The Box of Delights
by John Masefield, illustrated by Judith Masefield
Strange things begin to happen the minute young Kay Harker boards the train to go home for Christmas and finds himself under observation by two very shifty-looking characters. Arriving at his destination, the boy is immediately accosted by a bright-eyed old man with a mysterious message: “The wolves are running.” Soon danger is everywhere, as a gang of criminals headed by the notorious wizard Abner Brown and his witch wife Sylvia Daisy Pouncer gets to work. What does Abner Brown want? The magic box that the old man has entrusted to Kay, which allows him to travel freely not only in space but in time, too. The gang will stop at nothing to carry out their plan, even kidnapping Kay’s friend, the tough little Maria Jones, and threatening to cancel Christmas celebrations altogether. But with the help of his allies, including an intrepid mouse, a squadron of Roman soldiers, the legendary Herne the Hunter, and the inventor of the Box of Delights himself, Kay just may be able rescue his friend, foil Abner Brown’s plot, and save Christmas, too.
At once a thriller, a romp, and a spellbinding fantasy,The Box of Delights is a great English children’s book and a perfect Christmas treat.
It is...a unique work and will often be re-read...the beauties, all the "delights" that keep on emerging from the box—are so exquisite, and quite unlike anything I have seen elsewhere.
— C.S. Lewis
This witty and wonderful children's novel by the onetime Poet Laureate of the UK is widely beloved on the other side of the pond, but lesser known here. A travesty, that, since it's a magic box in itself: a magical adventure that begins with a boy on his way home for Christmas, stopped by a man who implores him, 'And now, Master Harker, of Seekings, now that the Wolves are Running, as you will have seen, perhaps you would do something to stop their Bite?' Enter wizards and witches, mice, Roman soldiers, the toughest little girl you'll ever meet, and Christmas just might be saved after all.
What I admire most in other writers is originality of vision—books that work on different levels and hold something for any reader, child or adult. A book like John Masefield's Box of Delights, for example, published in the 1930s but startlingly innovative and subtly influential.
— Celia Rees, Talking Books
A plum pudding of strange adventures, English legend, and spiritual feeling.
— Michael Dirda
[Masefield's] most popular children's book...Original and remarkable.
— Alison Lurie, The New York Review of Books
First published in 1935, The Box of Delights by John Masefield is newly available. In the adventure-laden Christmas story, Kay Harker (also the protagonist of Masefield's The Midnight Folk) returns from boarding school for the holidays and becomes involved in a struggle with a wizard and witch who wish to possess the eponymous box.
— Publishers Weekly
Every chapter in this book is marvelous, but the real delight derives from Masefield's style and the idiosyncratic, colorful speech of his various characters...Lovely stuff.
— The Washington Post
This book is a writer's oft-raided treasure trove...the world's best "crossover book"...It does time-travel better than Narnia...The story floats on brilliant, eccentric dialogue and...never loses its snowy-Christmas, Nutcracker enchantment...
— The Independent (UK)