Christmas Picture Books (The Flash Review Roundup)


It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!

I’ve been having trouble updating my blog because of the sheer busy-ness of the season, with Christmas parties left and right, endless shopping and giftwrapping, and I’ve been attending the dawn masses (at 4:30 am) at church as well (today was the last one!).

I’ve been poring through some Christmassy picture books for the holidays, (i didn’t realize I had so many on my shelves!)  so here’s another picture book roundup, flash review style.

(Oh, and this doesn’t include How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which I already reviewed a few months back).

nightbeforeThe Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illus. by Christian Birmingham, hardcover with dust jacket

The 411: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house/ Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse — The Night Before Christmas is the quintessential holiday verse, credited to Clement C. Moore, originally entitled “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Most of what we believe about Santa Claus today — his physique, his holiday schedule (visiting on the night before Christmas), the sleigh, the reindeer (and their names), and his tradition of bringing toys to kids around the world — can be traced back to this  1823 poem.

My take: I have the oversized edition illustrated by Christian Birmingham and it’s breathtaking! It really captures the spirit of Christmas (and the poem) and it’s definitely one of the best Christmas books in my collection!

My rating: 5/5 stars

Twas‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, Coca-Cola Santa edition, illus. by Haddon Sundblom, hardcover

The 411: Coca-Cola’s take on the classic, using the original text by Clement C. Moore, and their very own rosy-faced Santa, illustrated by Haddon Sundblom. Sundblom’s illustrations weren’t the first Santa illustrations of the jolly, rotund and ruddy-cheeked kind, but paired with Coca-Cola, these really helped form the modern image of Santa.

My take: I love the Coca-Cola Santa, despite its commercialism, and it’s actually my favorite Santa image. I think Coca-Cola was able to successfully create an icon that has been embraced by generations, and Sundblom went on to paint more Santa images for Coke for 33 years! The oil paintings are exquisite, and you just know that’s how Santa is supposed to look like (albeit this one happens to love Coke instead of milk). And of course, there’s always Coke at our table on Christmas (hahaha).

My rating: 5/5 stars

anothernightAnother Night Before Christmas by Carol Ann Duffy, illus. by Marc Boutavant, hardcover

The 411: Another Night Before Christmas is a modern take on the classic, by Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy. It rewrites Clement C. Moore’s text to include modern conveniences such as malls, television, cell phones, etc.

My take: It was okay. I didn’t think the original text was all that dated that it needed an updated edition, although it isn’t a bad idea. I just wish Duffy was able to capture the warmth and magic of the original… Somehow “On the night before Christmas, a child in a house,as the whole family slept, behaved just like a mouse, and crept on soft toes down red-carpeted stairs. Her hand held the paw of her favourite bear” just doesn’t ring with a whole lot of Christmas joy. Boutavant’s illustrations are delightfully whimsical, though, and I enjoyed them more than the poetry.

My rating: 3/5 stars

nutcrackerThe Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illus. by Don Daily, hardcover with dustjacket

The 411: Another holiday classic, this story is originally entitled “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the story of a young girl named Marie and her favorite toy, a Nutcracker, which takes her to a doll kingdom. It was eventually turned into one of the most popular ballets of all time, with music composed by the famous Tchaikovsky.

My take: I’ve loved the Nutcracker since I saw the Jim Gamble puppet show on video when I was young. I’ve always wanted a Nutcracker book and was glad to have found this one at a bargain warehouse. I still want the Maurice Sendak Nutcracker, though.

My rating: 5/5 stars

little match girlThe Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen, illus. by Rachel Isadora, hardcover with dustjacket

The 411: One of the saddest Christmas stories of all time, the Little Match Girl is about the dying visions of a little girl on a cold winter’s night. First published in 1845, it has been adapted into various films, music, television, and even literature.

My take: I’d been looking for a copy of this book for the longest time, and luckily found one a few months ago at a bargain bookstore. This book is a childhood favorite, one of the first I ever read alone. I remember a certain incident when I had been naughty and was given a time-out in the dirty kitchen. Feeling like the little match girl, I started shooting matchsticks through the door to get people to notice me. While this book is about death, it is depicted in a positive light and delivers a powerful Christmas message — to be thankful for what we have.

My rating: 5/5 stars

olive the otherOlive the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh, illus. by J. Otto Seibold, hardcover

The 411: If you’ve ever sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll probably get the pun on the title of the book. Olive isn’t actually a reindeer, but a little dog  who thinks she’s one of Santa’s reindeer after hearing the song on the radio (mishearing all of the other reindeer). Olive is in for a great Christmas adventure when she heads to the North to join the sleigh team and ends up saving Christmas for Santa and the sleigh team!

My take: I was immediately drawn to this book after spotting it at the bargain bookstore last year, and it has fast become one of my holiday favorites. Olive shines as an unlikely Christmas hero in this very funny book that readers (especially dog lovers) of all ages will enjoy. The story is a pleasure to read in its simplicity, not to mention that it’s accompanied by one of the finest examples of digital illustration in children’s books. There is a movie adaptation, although the story takes on a wildly different turn, introducing a holiday caper perpetrated by an evil penguin postman.

My rating: 5/5 stars

babarBabar and Father Christmas by Jean de Brunhoff, hardcover

The 411: This was the last Babar book done by Jean de Brunhoff, shortly before his death in 1940. In this book, the youngsters Zephir, Arthur, Pom, and Flora write to Father Christmas to invite him to Elephants’ country and are dismayed to get no response. Thus, Babar sets off to find Father Christmas so he can distribute toys to the elephant children. Father Christmas has a grand tropical vacation in Elephants’ country, and gifts Babar with a Santa suit so he can play Father Christmas on Christmas Eve.

My take: It’s a Christmas read for Babar fans everywhere! Again, everyone’s favorite elephant takes off on another great adventure, which has him traveling across Europe,  and to Bohemia, where Santa’s underground palace (guarded by mountain dwarves) lies in a little town named PRJMNESWE. The illustrations are exquisite as usual, with amazing detail, especially the spread showcasing a tour of Santa’s palace, with a cross section of all the rooms and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas dwarves.

My rating: 4/5 stars

9780060211332Santa Calls by William Joyce, hardcover with dustjacket

The 411: It’s the early 1900s in Abilene, Texas, and one dusty December day, the kid inventor Art, his Comanche pal Spaulding, and his little sister Esther find a wooden crate with a note that says, “Open the box. Assemble the contents. Come NORTH. Yours, S.C.” Inside the box is a flying sled, and the three ride off to the North Pole to see Santa. An adventure awaits the trio as they help Santa fight off  dark elves and an evil queen, and just as they head home in time for Christmas, the previously squabbling brother and sister  become friends.

‘My take: This is not your typical Christmas story, but it’s definitely one worth reading. It’s a bit wordy for a picture book, better suited for older readers, and touches on deeper themes such as sibling rivalry, friendship, and keeping secrets. Story-wise, it is awkward in places and a bit too convoluted, but the illustrations will keep you turning page after page after page, with solid figures done up in candy colors, with an air of surreal whimsicality.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

madelines-christmasMadeline’s Christmas byLudwig Bemelmans, from Mad about Madeline hardcover compilation

The 411: Madeline’s Christmas starts off with the classic introduction in all Madeline books — In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. They left the house at half-past nine in two straight lines, in rain or shine. The smallest one was MADELINE — but proceeds to incorporate The Night Before Christmas, as “not a creature was stirring” because everyone had a cold. Everyone, that is, except Madeline. As Madeline plays nurse in the house, she also plays good Samaritan to a cold rug merchant, who turns out to be a magician and gives them all a magical Christmas.

My take: I’m a big Madeline fan, and I have the complete hardcover compilation of the Madeline stories. This one doesn’t seem to be as good as the other Madeline stories, perhaps still a work in progress by Bemelmans. The story is relatively shorter than the others, and the plot not as complex, and even the illustrations are not as detailed  (disappointing, even in full color) and considerably rougher than those from the other Madeline books. Still, it’s a good story about kindness and make-believe and the magic of Christmas.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

velveteenThe Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, illus. by Michael Hague, hardcover with dust jacket

The 411: The Velveteen Rabbit is a much-loved story about a toy that becomes Real because it is loved by a child. Although not strictly about Christmas, The Velveteen Rabbit opens on Christmas morning, when the Boy finds the plush rabbit nestled in his stocking, and goes on to show how the Boy came to love the rabbit and how the rabbit becomes Real. It’s a timeless story about love and magic, and is one of the classics of children’s literature.

My take: I’ve always heard about The Velveteen Rabbit but only read it fairly recently, and it’s a story that is tender and enchanting at the same time. Toys that come alive have been a popular theme in children’s stories, and it’s probably in part due to the immense success of this book. I love this edition I have — Michael Hague’s soft and detailed illustrations showcase the story perfectly, and make the book a volume to treasure.

My rating: 5/5 stars


Books 194-203 of 2009

8 thoughts on “Christmas Picture Books (The Flash Review Roundup)”

  1. Happy Holidays, Ray-ann! The Little Match Girl was super hard to find… There’s another edition that I’ve been seeing, pero abstract art, ang weird

  2. Hello, blooey! hope you’re having a great christmas. I’m having fun reading your entries again (sorry..naging busy with the holiday season lately..hehe

    Thanks for the book, btw. Nainggit yung friend ko nung nakita nya yung jacket ng book. Hehe

  3. The visual effects are great, even though a lot of it was :”Look, we have 3-D!” They stayed very close to the original story, though they added a miniaturization segment that was unnecessary. Carrey was muted and did a great job with some occasional clowning around. It was actually scary in some parts, as it should be, but not overwhelmingly, and there were some laughs as well.

  4. Pingback: Christmas Reading

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