The Christmas books have finally come out of storage in my house and are being read on a daily basis, including the classic The Night Before Christmas. The copy my family owns is a good one that we have enjoyed over the last few years. But I recently received a new version illustrated by Holly Hobbie, and it is fascinating how different the same story can look when seen through another artists' eyes.
It is easy to assume that with a story so cemented in Christmas popular culture that there is no way to bring something new to the table. But in a subtle and gentle way, Hobbie does just that. By setting the poem in what appears to be an old New England farmhouse and introducing a wide eyed toddler and his feline companion into the mix, the half-memorized words take on new life. Even though you know what is going to happen next, each page is turned eagerly.
Hobbie manages to have the illustrations both support the poem while telling a small separate story of their own. The pacing is perfect, with some two page spreads containing no words at all, inviting the reader to fully explore each scene.
The illustrations themselves are stellar. They are warm and sentimental without being overly sweet and cloying. The facial expressions on the toddler and cat are particularly perfect, a beautiful mix of surprise, wonder and awe. Many pages had me itching to grab a razor blade and some Modge Podge in order to make some new Christmas decor (no worries, I managed to control myself).
If you think The Night Before Christmas has no tricks left up its sleeve, check out this new edition illustrated by Holly Hobbie. But you may want to lock up the Modge Podge before you do.
Title: The Night Before Christmas
Author: Clement Moore
Illustrator: Holly Hobbie
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (2013)
Age group: Two and up
Best for kids who: love Christmas, poetry and cats
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon:
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore, illustrated by Holly Hobbie
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(Image credits: Richard Popovic)