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Sir Michael Andrew Bridge Morpurgo was born on 5 October 1943. He is an English book author, poet, play writer, and librettist who is known best for children's novels such as War Horse (1982). His work is noted for its "magical storytelling", for recurring themes such as the triumph of an outsider or survival, for characters' relationships with nature, and for vivid settings such as the Cornish coast or World War I. Morpurgo became the third Children's Laureate, from 2003 to 2005. (Source: Wikipedia)


The lesson “The Best Christmas Present in the World” recites a Christmas story in the midst of a war. It reflects upon the longing of the soldiers to reunite with their families. On the other hand, it also throws light upon the longing of the families of these soldiers. One such wife, Connie, a hundred and one years old lady whose husband was a soldier in the British army, misunderstood her visitor to be her husband Jim and called the so-called reunion “The Best Christmas Present in the World”. In The Best Christmas Present in the World, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo revisits the trenches to tell the haunting story of Christmas 1914 when soldiers on both sides put down their weapons in honour of Christmas Day. This is the story that also moved Carol Ann Duffy to write The Christmas Truce and Hilary Robinson to write The Christmas Truce: The Place Where Peace Was Found. A typically spellbinding tale from the former Children’s Laureate. This vivid and emotive war story is matched by the stunning artwork from Michael Foreman (War Boy, War Game). A picture book not to be missed at Christmas time. Perfect for kids aged 5 and up


The author found a roll-top desk in a junk shop. It was in a bad condition but cheap. He thought that he could restore it. So he bought it. He began to work on it on Christmas Eve. He pulled out the drawers. He found that these had been badly damaged by fire and water. The man who sold it had told him that it was very old. It was of 19th century and made of oak. The last drawer had stuck fast. He had to use much force to open it. When it opened, it revealed a secret space. In it he found a small tin box. On the top of the box these words were written : “Jim’s last letter, received January 25, 1915. To be buried with me when the time comes.” Inside, there was an envelope with the address : “Mrs Jim Macpherson 12 Copper Beeches, Bridport.” The date was December 26, 1914. The author read the letter. The owner of the desk must have put it in. The letter had been written by a captain of the English army. His name was Jim Macpherson. He had written it to his wife Connie. A wonderful incident had happened on the battlefield on the Christmas day. Jim Macpherson had narrated it in his letter. The English and the Germans were at war. The two armies stood in their respective trenches on the two sides of the no man’s land. Suddenly Macpherson saw someone waving a white flag from the enemy side. Then he saw many German soldiers calling out to them. They were wishing a happy Christmas to the English soldiers. Some English soldiers shouted back ‘Same to you’. The English thought that was all. To their surprise, they saw many Germans moving towards them. The captain was alarmed. It could be a trick. But it was not. They were bringing with them German wine and canned meat. Now there were no rifles between the soldiers. They were hugging one another. The German officer moved towards Macpherson. They shook hands very warmly. Then the German officer said that he was from Dusseldorf and that he played cello in the orchestra. He gave his name as Hans Wolf. In return, Macpherson also introduced himself. He said that he was a school teacher from Dorset. Hans Wolf smiled. He said he knew Dorset. In fact he had never been to England. But he knew English. His favourite writer was Thomas Hardy. His favourite book was ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. It was from there he had learnt all about Dorset. Macpherson shared with Hans Wolf the Christmas cake his wife had sent for him. Hans Wolf said that the marzipan was the best he had ever tasted. It was a wonderful Christmas party. Then a soldier brought out a football. The soldiers played while Macpherson and Hans Wolf clapped and cheered. Hans Wolf sug-gested that the world would be much better if the problems were resolved by a football match instead of war. After the football match, all the drinks and eatables were consumed. Now it was time to part. Hans Wolf saluted Macpherson and walked away slowly and unwillingly. That night the Germans were heard singing a carol. The English soldiers replied with a rousing chorus of another carol. They exchanged carols for a while and then it was all silence. Macpherson wrote in his letter that he would treasure those moments all his life. Macpherson ended the letter hoping that the war would end soon. Both armies longed for peace and he was sure they would be together again. Having read the letter, the author, put it back in the envelope. He decided to give the letter back to whom it belonged. The address was of Bridport, Dorset. So he drove to that place. The house no. 12 turned out to be a burnt-out shell. It was found that Mrs Macpherson was in the house when it caught fire. The fireman had got her out just in time. She was 101 years old. Now she was in a nursing home. The author went to the nursing home. He met the matron. She told the author that Mrs Macpherson was rather confused that day. They had put her in a conservatory. The author found Mrs Macpherson sitting in a chair. Naturally, she looked up at the author vacantly. But her eyes lit up when he called her ‘Connie’ and gave her the letter. He told her how he had got the letter. But she was not listening to him. She reached out and took his hand. Her eyes were filled with tears. She felt that her Jim had returned. She said that her Jim had kept his promise. He had returned on the eve of Christmas. She made him sit beside her. She kissed his cheek. She talked long and lovingly to him. She said that she had got the best Christmas present in the world.


  1. What did the author find in a junk shop?
  2. What did he find in a secret drawer? Who do you think had put it in there?
  3. Who had written the letter, to whom, and when?
  4. Why was the letter written — what was the wonderful thing that had happened?
  5. What jobs did Hans Wolf and Jim Macpherson have when they were not soldiers?
  6. Had Hans Wolf ever been to Dorset? Why did he say he knew it?
  7. Do you think Jim Macpherson came back from the war? How do you know this?
  8. Why did the author go to Bridport?
  9. How old was Mrs Macpherson now? Where was she?
  10. Which sentence in the text shows that the visitor did not try to hide his identity?
  11. For how long do you think Connie had kept Jim’s letter? Give reasons for your answer.
  12. Why do Jim and Hans think that games or sports are good ways of resolving conflicts? Do you agree?
  13. Do you think the soldiers of the two armies are like each other, or different from each other? Find evidence from the story to support your answer.
  14. Mention the various ways in which the British and the German soldiers become friends and find things in common at Christmas.
  15. What is Connie’s Christmas present? Why is it “the best Christmas present in the world”?
  16. Do you think the title of this story is suitable for it?


  1. In the junk shop,the author found a nineteenth century roll-top desk made of oak.  Old as it was, it was in a poor shape; the roll top was not in single piece, one of its legs was unskillfully repaired and it had marks on one of its sides as if it were burnt down.
  2. The author discovered a black coloured tin box inside the secret drawer. Fixated on its top side, there was a letter on which it was written “Jim’s last letter, received January 25, 1915. To be buried with me when the time comes.” in shaky handwriting. It was meant for Jim’s wife, Mrs Macpherson. Thus, she must have been the one to keep it there safely.
  3. Jim Macpherson, the officer of the British army had written the letter to his wife, who he refers to as Connie, with love.The letter is dated December 26, 1914; after the best Christmas celebration they had with the German army.
  4. The letter was written by Jim to share “the wonderful thing” that had happened a day before. While the English army was behind their trenches against the German army, they were shown the white flag by the Germans, symbolising a truce. The German men then came to the no man’s land, hereby inviting the Tommies or English men to celebrate Christmas with them over Schnapps and sausages. Both the armies celebrated Christmas and made peace in the midst of war, even if it was for a day. Jim met the officer of the German army, Hans Wolf and they spent a lot of time talking about a lot of things. Even though they were enemies, they agreed upon almost everything. Both the sides played football and enjoyed rum, schnapps and sausages. They spent the day laughing, drinking, eating and enjoying with each other. They finally departed to their ways after the football match and that night, they even exchanged carols.
  5. When Hans Wolf and Jim Macpherson were not serving their respective armies, they had other jobs that kept them occupied. Hans Wolf, officer of the German army played cello in an orchestra and Jim Macpherson, officer of the British army taught at a school in Dorset, in the West of England.
  6. No, Hans Wolf had never been to Dorset, or for that matter, any part of England. Even then, he said he knew quite well about the place because he learned a lot about England in school and he liked reading English books which gave him all the knowledge he needed to know.
  7. No, Jim Macpherson did not come back from the war. The tin box that the narrator found had “Jim’s last letter” written on it which means he wrote no letter after this one. Also factually, the letter was written in the early years of World War I in which the Germans emerged victorious, which clearly hints at the defeat of the British army.
  8. The author could not sleep after reading the letter. So, the next morning he decided to go to Bridport which was just a few miles away from where he lived. He had gone there to find Mrs Macpherson at the address mentioned on the envelope so that he could give her the letter.
  9. Mrs Macpherson was now a hundred and one years old. Her house in Bridport burned down years ago and now she was in a Nursing home named Burlington House on the Dorchester road, which is on the other side of the town.
  10. The lines that show that the visitor did not try to hide his identity are, “I explained about the desk, about how I had found it, but I don't think she was listening.”
  11. Connie had kept the letter with her for a very long time. No clear time had been mentioned but by the series of events mentioned in the story, we can say she possessed it until her house caught fire. This is because the author found it in the partially-burnt roll-top desk that he bought from the junk shop. It was kept in a secret drawer in a tin box that said, “to be buried with me”. Thus, Connie kept the letter safe with her and intended to do so till eternity. It was the fire that separated her from that letter.
  12. Jim and Hans are of the opinion that if countries could resolve their conflicts by playing football or cricket, no lives would be sacrificed, no parent would lose their son, no children would be orphaned and no wives would be left widowed. Yes, I agree with their opinion. Wars only cause destruction. A nation that emerges victorious from the war, must actually not take it as a reason to celebrate, as it is only a result of massive bloodshed and sacrifice. Nations must refrain from declaring war-like situations and solve the conflicts with negotiations, peacefully.
  13. The soldiers from the two armies, British and German are quite similar to each other. They are soldiers from different countries, but in reality are simple men who want to negotiate peacefully so that they can reunite with their families as soon as possible. It is evident from these lines in the story, “ I wished Hans well and told him I hoped he would see his family again soon, that the fighting would end and we could all go home. “I think that is what every soldier wants, on both sides,” Hans Wolf said.” Also, the line “We agreed about everything, and he was my enemy.” suggests that Jim and Hans got along with each other quite well as they made peace amidst an ongoing war.
  14. On Christmas Day, the Fritz (German soldiers) came out on no man’s land and invited the Tommies (British army) to celebrate the day over Schnapps and sausages. The celebrations began when the Tommies in Khaki joined them. While men in grey and Khaki met each other, the officers of the two armies also introduced themselves to each other. They talked over a variety of things like Dorset, Hans’ favourite writer and book and even the characters from the book. As they talked, they found a lot of things in common between them, as Jim said, “We agreed about everything, and he was my enemy. ” All of them shared each other’s quota of rum, schnapps and sausage. All men were seen laughing, eating, drinking, talking and enjoying themselves. They even played a football match. In the end, all they wished for each other was to reunite with their families and children and for things to end peacefully.
  15. As the author decided to return Jim’s letter to his wife Connie, he went to meet her at the Nursing Home to hand it over to her personally. He gave the letter to Connie and explained to her how he found it but she didn’t listen to a word of what he said.  So, she misunderstood the author to be Jim and became joyful. She considered it her Christmas present and according to her, it was “the best Christmas present in the whole world” as she had been waiting for Jim since long and she had longed to hear his voice every day. Her eyes were filled with tears as she sat with her Christmas present.
  16. The lesson revolves around the day of Christmas. The letter that Jim worte is all about how the two armies came together to celebrate the spirit of Christmas despite being enemies in war. Moreover, in that letter, he assures Connie to be there with her next Christmas. Apart from this, the author gives back the letter to Connie on Christmas day and Connie, who had been longing to see and hear from Jim, considers the author to be her husband and the best ever Christmas present. Thus, the title, “The Best Christmas Present in the World” is apt. The other titles that would be suitable for the story are, “The Christmas Miracle”, “The spirit of Christmas” or “The Christmas Messenger”.
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