Lance Lee


Poet, Playwright, Novelist

Book covers
Book covers
The Tale of the Animal's Christmas in Crouch End

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End

Pub. November 15 2023

Review Excerpts, full reviews further down.

Midwest Book Review

An unusual take on the Christmas book for kids, adopting a lively focus that embraces fairy tale magic and Christmas insights as a disparate group of animals wild and domestic move from incomprehension at human behavior to realizing They have tapped into an important secret. Meilo So’s colorful illustrations pepper the story. An attraction to any library catering to young readers, especially recommended for family viewing.

A fine London-steeped tale that explores the deeper points of Christmas.

Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review Donovan's Literary Services

BlueInk Starred Review

Enchantingly told and marvelously illustrated, Lance Lee's holiday-themed chapter book offers bountiful delights for readers of every age. A modern-day urban Wind in the Willows set in London, this story, subtitled "a fable for children and their parents," is populated with mannered Beatrix Potter-like animals on a quest to discover the meaning and magic of Christmas...a timeless tale of caring, sharing and community, with a glorious dollop of magic…and effortlessly charmingly, this instant holiday classic deserves a spot among the best of Christmas tales for children.

Highly recommended for fans of Kenneth Grahame and Beatrix Potter. Also available in hardcover.

BlueInk Starred ReviewLove Reading 4 Kids logo

Love Reading Review: an Indie Book We Love

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End … is a sweet illustrated Christmas story. The focus on urban wildlife gives the book both a natural wind in the willows feel…. With teamwork and a little bit of Fairy magic all the different animals, from frogs to magpies…to Rufus the dapper, waistcoat wearing Fox...come together to enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then the true magic of Christmas is revealed…. The illustrations by Meilo So are lovely, colourful…..a great festive read for young readers who love animals, it’s filled with the joys of Christmas as well as key messages about teamwork, community and friendship. Perfect for the festive season.

Love Reading4KidsLove Reading 4 Kids logo

Readers' Favorite 5-Star Book Review

A magical story. The illustrations by Meilo So are captivating. Parents will enjoy reading this story to their young ones. Older children will also enjoy reading the book in anticipation of finding out how the pictures relate to the story. Intriguing from start to end.

Bryone Peters, Readers' FavoriteReaders' Favorite 5 Star Review logo

Readers' Favorite 5-Star Book Review

Here is a Christmas story that will keep you engaged. The author writes in a manner that draws you into the story to see how well the various creatures put aside their differences, learn they can celebrate together in harmony. I recommend parents use this book as a foundation to discuss how to accept people who are different from them, how to celebrate together, and the joy of giving, sharing, and togetherness.

Philip Van Heusen, Readers' FavoriteReaders' Favorite 5 Star Review logo

Readers' Favorite 5-Star Book Review

An enchanting tale of wonder, friendship, and the true meaning of Christmas filled with lovable animals and gorgeous illustrations. This uplifting and enjoyable fable will soon become a family favorite that everyone will look forward to reading each year.

Melinda Facal, Readers' FavoriteReaders' Favorite 5 Star Review logo

Reedsy 5 star review

Destined to be a Christmas classic, readers of all ages can experience Christmas magic through the eyes of a special group of animals.

A year of unusually heavy rains lead the Animals of Crouch End in North London to decide to celebrate Christmas for the first time. These begin when Rufus Fox hires Marvin Mole & Sons to repair his flooded home. As he wanders Crouch End and sees Christmas decorations appear soon Belinda, a wood pigeon, Hilda Hedgehog, The Magpies, Silas Squirrel and family, Franklin Frog and his family, and the large, fierce, tiger-striped tabby, Goya, who overhear Rufus' bewilderment over Christmas, decide to collaborate on putting together their own Christmas and Christmas Feast in order to understand Christmas.

Rufus is helped by the Fairy, Tinya, who first explains Christmas, helps make Rufus' home Marvin Mole & Sons repair large enough for everyone—even though it isn't—and challenges Rufus to discover on his own the real secret of Christmas.

Rufus is still puzzled even after all goes off splendidly Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but at the very end with Tinya he realizes the secret is not getting, but giving; not having a truce among unlikely animals, but a family relationship, all motivated by love for one another.

He decides to become a vegetarian to keep his new 'family' together.Destined to be a Christmas classic, The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End will charm the socks off readers young and old--preferably enjoyed jointly as a holiday read-aloud. This book combined so many of my favorite things: talking animals (reminiscent of Wind in the Willows), a British setting, a home project, and a bit of magic sprinkled throughout.

A wetter season than normal has forced Marvin's mole family to reroute their front door. Imagine the mole family's surprise when their new door is adjacent to the home of Rufus, the resident fox of the neighborhood and known hunter of small animals. Marvin is wielding tools (handy defense should the fox become unfriendly), and explains that he does home repairs. Very serendipitous because Rufus' home has been utterly ruined with standing water everywhere.

Rufus hires Marvin to do repairs and so begins the start of a tentative truce among the animals. Rufus' nephew, Rupert, will be visiting over Christmas and Rufus wants to make the best impression possible.

As the home repairs continue, Rufus finds that his hunting has been curtailed which gives him more time to explore the curious traditions that humans follow at this time of year. Lights and decorated trees appear and a festive spirit permeates the neighborhood that seems to cast a spell over even the animals. A feast is proposed and the animals agree to a period of harmony to share the holiday. When problems arise, Rufus calls upon his gift of second sight and seeks the help of Tinya the fairy.

So many fun details and heartwarming aspects of this story. It will make a wonderful book to read as a family year after year. With 9 chapters, it makes the perfect run-up to the holiday--creating anticipation to know what will happen next while slowly ushering in the most magical time of year.

I appreciated that while Santa was an obvious part of the story, the Christ child was also mentioned. And while the story is not particularly religious, it does offer a touching lesson on what makes Christmas special that anyone can appreciate. Pick up your copy today and be enchanted by not only the story but the delightful illustrations drawn by the talented Meilo So.

Jill Stanish – Reedsy 5 Star ReviewReedsy logo

BlueInk Starred Review

Enchantingly told and marvelously illustrated, Lance Lee's holiday-themed chapter book offers bountiful delights for readers of every age. A modern-day urban Wind in the Willows set in London, this story, subtitled "a fable for children and their parents," is populated with mannered Beatrix Potter-like animals on a quest to discover the meaning and magic of Christmas.

When "the heaviest rains anyone could remember" drench the North London neighborhood of Crouch End, gentlemanly Rufus the Red Fox finds his life disrupted. Inside his elegant den in a deep backyard, "Rufus' floors were slimed. In one room a bed floated in floodwater ... He didn't dare use his stove for fear of electrocuting himself." A new neighbor, introducing himself as "Marvin Mole, Builder Extraordinaire," is wary of Rufus because "He is a Fox – after all!" Yet Rufus hires Marvin, quelling his predatory instincts.

Renovations underway, Rufus wanders the streets of Crouch End, growing "ever more conscious of all the strange Christmas behaviors of people," things he’s seen previously but doesn’t understand. Hearing Rufus' findings, the mole responds, "They go mad this way every year." As other animals chime in – Belinda the Wood Pigeon and Hilda Hedgehog stunned that "a Mole and Fox were friendly" – they challenge Rufus to ask the fairies about Christmas since he's rumored to have second sight. Later, Tinya the Fairy explains "the meaning of all the decorations and lights. Or almost all," since she stops short, stating, "There's something more you must find out yourself."

Lee's contemporary narrative is a timeless tale of caring, sharing and community, with a glorious dollop of magic. Meilo So's illustrations blend loose sketches and scribbled color with precisely rendered animals fetchingly anthropomorphic in their quaint attire.

Glorious, nostalgic and effortlessly charmingly, this instant holiday classic deserves a spot among the best of Christmas tales for children.

Highly recommended for fans of Kenneth Grahame and Beatrix Potter.

BlueInk Starred ReviewLove Reading 4 Kids logo

BlueInk Starred Review

Enchantingly told and marvelously illustrated, Lance Lee's holiday-themed chapter book offers bountiful delights for readers of every age. A modern-day urban Wind in the Willows set in London, this story, subtitled "a fable for children and their parents," is populated with mannered Beatrix Potter-like animals on a quest to discover the meaning and magic of Christmas.

When "the heaviest rains anyone could remember" drench the North London neighborhood of Crouch End, gentlemanly Rufus the Red Fox finds his life disrupted. Inside his elegant den in a deep backyard, "Rufus' floors were slimed. In one room a bed floated in floodwater ... He didn't dare use his stove for fear of electrocuting himself." A new neighbor, introducing himself as "Marvin Mole, Builder Extraordinaire," is wary of Rufus because "He is a Fox – after all!" Yet Rufus hires Marvin, quelling his predatory instincts.

Renovations underway, Rufus wanders the streets of Crouch End, growing "ever more conscious of all the strange Christmas behaviors of people," things he’s seen previously but doesn’t understand. Hearing Rufus' findings, the mole responds, "They go mad this way every year." As other animals chime in – Belinda the Wood Pigeon and Hilda Hedgehog stunned that "a Mole and Fox were friendly" – they challenge Rufus to ask the fairies about Christmas since he's rumored to have second sight. Later, Tinya the Fairy explains "the meaning of all the decorations and lights. Or almost all," since she stops short, stating, "There's something more you must find out yourself."

Lee's contemporary narrative is a timeless tale of caring, sharing and community, with a glorious dollop of magic. Meilo So's illustrations blend loose sketches and scribbled color with precisely rendered animals fetchingly anthropomorphic in their quaint attire.

Glorious, nostalgic and effortlessly charmingly, this instant holiday classic deserves a spot among the best of Christmas tales for children.

Highly recommended for fans of Kenneth Grahame and Beatrix Potter.

BlueInk Starred ReviewLove Reading 4 Kids logo

Love Reading Review: an Indie Book We Love

In the gardens of North London a group of animals put aside their differences in order to discover the magic of Christmas.

The wildlife of Crouch End in North London have their own busy lives. When heavy rain one winter leads Marvin Mole and his family to dig new accommodation next door to Rufus the dapper, waistcoat wearing Fox, they strike up an unlikely alliance as Marvin Mole & Sons helps Rufus to fix his waterlogged home. While the building work is underway Rufus shares his fascination with the human’s Christmas celebrations and the local animals all call a truce so that they can come together and experience the holiday for themselves. With teamwork and a little bit of Fairy magic all the different animals, from frogs to magpies, come together to enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then the true magic of Christmas is revealed and changes Rufus forever. 

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End by Lance Lee is a sweet illustrated Christmas story. The focus on urban wildlife gives the book both a natural wind in the willows feel while also being something that all children would be able to picture happening at the bottom of their garden. The illustrations by Meilo So are lovely, colourful and a variety of sizes, interspersed within the text and on their own pages to help with telling the story. I think that this would be a great festive read for young readers who love animals, it’s filled with the joys of Christmas as well as key messages about teamwork, community and friendship. Perfect for the festive season.

Love Reading4KidsLove Reading 4 Kids logo

Midwest Book Review

Readers who choose The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End will find a holiday fable as appropriate for adult read-aloud as for individual pursuit.

The animals of Crouch End in North London have not celebrated Christmas before, but when unusual rains lead to changes, one of them is to acknowledge the Christmas season in a special animal way.

As a disparate blend of animals wild and domestic, from magpies and squirrels to cats, band together to discern the puzzling meaning of this human holiday, they contribute not just insights but their own values and approaches to celebrations to create a multifaceted experience.

What begins as a simple assignment (Rufus Fox hires Marvin Mole & Sons to repair his flooded home) turns into an exploration of what People do and why some of these rituals and approaches to life may be fine-tuned to bring the animal world together.

Lance Lee creates an unusual focus and take on the typical Christmas holiday book for kids, adopting a lively focus that embraces an unusual blend of fairy tale magic and Christmas insights and secrets as the animals move from incomprehension of human behavior to realizing that, just maybe, They have tapped into an important secret that has (until now) eluded the animal kingdom.

Meilo So's fun, colorful illustrations pepper the story, which is too complex to be called a simple picture book read but too visually attractive to be limited to older readers alone.

Rufus, especially, acknowledges that there is much to discover about the holiday and its processes, and his concerns lend particularly well to adult read-aloud discussions with the very young:

"Rufus stared into his fireplace, sipped the last of his wine, and looked down at his fine ascot and finer waistcoat. He liked both very much but knew they weren’t the ‘something more’ he wanted to understand."

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End will prove an attraction for any library catering to young readers, but is especially recommended for family viewing as it spins a fine London-steeped yarn that explores fairy magic, Father Christmas, and the deeper points of the holiday season.

Diane Donovan, Sr. Reviewer Midwest Book Review Editor, Donovan's Literary Services

Readers' Favorite 5 Star Review:

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End by Lance Lee is a beautiful story about finding the Christmas spirit. The animals are confused and curious as to why the humans celebrate Christmas. The fairy tells Fox to experience Christmas to see what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, his house was flooded with water and is a complete mess. After he approaches the amazingly adept Marvin Mole and his family of builders, they reluctantly agree to repair and renovate his home by Christmas. All the animals are involved in the preparations for Christmas festivities. However, things go wrong along the way. The animals lose their enthusiasm. Will the animals be able to experience Christmas and the Christmas spirit? Or might they need a little magic?

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End by Lance Lee is a magical story. The illustrations by Meilo So are captivating, colorful, and cute. Readers will love the many pictures scattered throughout the book, like I did. Even the single ones of smaller sizes were a great attraction and the larger spreads were a welcomed temporary distraction from the text. The dialogue is clear and easy to follow. The story was intriguing from start to end. I could not stop reading to see how everything turned out. Parents will enjoy reading this story to their young ones. Older children will also enjoy reading the book in anticipation of finding out how the pictures relate to the story. That’s all part of the fun of it!

Bryone Peters, Readers' FavoriteReaders' Favorite 5 Star Review logo

Readers' Favorite 5 Star Review:

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End: A fable for children and their parents by Lance Lee with illustrations by Meilo So shares an enchanting tale of wonder, friendship, and the true meaning of Christmas. Rufus Fox, Marvin Mole, Belinda the pigeon, and a host of other endearing animals have their differences while trying to survive in the city. During an extremely rainy season, Rufus needs some assistance, and the animals discover more about one another and grow closer. As winter approaches, the animals become curious about why the humans around them are stringing up lights and bringing trees inside their homes. Throughout the holiday season, Rufus and his friends learn many valuable lessons with the help of a magical fairy and Father Christmas.

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End by Lance Lee is a beautiful and cozy read for the holiday season. This heartwarming story is filled with lovable animals and gorgeous illustrations that highlight the warmth and radiance of the holidays. These charming animals drink tea, have thoughtful and funny conversations, and even dress up at times. Readers of all ages will be fascinated by these whimsical animals and their delightful personalities. All the animals working together peacefully inspires goodwill and conveys the spirit of Christmas. Meaningful discussions may be sparked as Rufus the Fox discovers the real reason why the world rejoices at Christmas time. This uplifting and enjoyable fable will soon become a family favorite that everyone will look forward to reading each year.

Melinda Facal, Readers' FavoriteReaders' Favorite 5 Star Review logo

Readers' Favorite 5 Star Review:

Not only will children enjoy this sweet Christmas story, but their parents will too. The animal characters in The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End come to life through the words of Lance Lee and illustrations by Meilo So. Rufus the Red Fox is curious about the meaning of Christmas since so many humans celebrate it. Through a series of events, he meets Marvin the Mole and his wife Mary. Even though Rufus appears tough, he needs friends just like anyone else. Marvin and his two sons agree to work on fixing up Rufus’ place. A mole and a fox becoming friends is unusual, so it causes quite a stir. In the end, they all end up celebrating Christmas. How can all the creatures fit into Rufus’ small home to celebrate? Can hunters become friends with their traditional prey? Read this story and find out.

Here is a Christmas story that will keep you engaged. The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End by Lance Lee will pique your interest and hold your attention from the first page. The author writes in a manner that draws you into the story. Your child will be excited to see how well the various creatures get along. They are each unique yet when they put aside their differences, they learn they can celebrate together in harmony. I recommend parents use this book as a foundation to discuss how to accept people who are different from them, how to celebrate together, and the joy of giving, sharing, and togetherness. Rufus learned that Christmas was so much more than receiving gifts. One key takeaway to teach your child is that if you love others, you can’t treat them badly. Rufus’ life was changed for the better when he learned what makes Christmas special.

Philip Van Heusen, Readers' FavoriteReaders' Favorite 5 Star Review logo