There are too many versions of The Night Before Christmas to choose just one, so I thought–for the last of our Twelve Reviews of Christmas for 2013–I’d do mini reviews of several so you can have your pick!
The Night Before Christmas, a poem by Clement Moore, illustrated by Jan Brett (1998): Illustrated in Brett’s signature style–bright colors, extreme detail, frames, and miniature side scenes–this book can’t be just read aloud. Each page offers a huge variety of images to study, and each one reveals a little more about the main image. In this one, a pug and a tabby cat can be found on most of the pages, and a child could spend forever looking for his friends’ names among the gift tags or finding images of the reindeer and elves doing silly things. (Uses “Merry Christmas to all” at the end and Donder for the second-to-last reindeer.)
The Night Before Christmas, with words by Clement Clarke Moore, with pictures by Raquel Jaramillo (2001): Framed as a family photo album found hidden in the floorboards of an old home, this book features sepia-tone photographs (on pages made to look aged with antique borders and weathered edges on the photos) of a family of five experiencing a visit from St. Nick. Their visitor is small (perhaps the height of a child–”a right jolly old elf”), can float in the air, and interacts with the whole family as he fills their stockings. (Uses “Happy Christmas to all” at the end and Donder for the second-to-last reindeer.)
The Night Before Christmas, performed by Peter, Paul and Mary, written by Clement C. Moore, paintings by Eric Puybaret (2010): If you play the accompanying CD, you can have Mary dramatically read you the story (her voice is a little peculiar) while one (or both) of the others hums and strums in the background. The second track is one of the males (Peter, I think) singing the words to the poem. (I prefer this track!) There’s a third track of a song called “A’Soalin” as well. The art looks almost like it is a 3-D collage piece but the illustrator apparently acrylic on linen. I’m not sure how I feel about some of the little details (like the faces in the smoke from the chimneys and the odd little hats on the reindeer), but I do love the rooftops and swirls of snow in many of the pictures, and the outdoor scenes are serene and lovely. (Uses “Merry Christmas to all” at the end and Donner for the second-to-last reindeer.)
The Night Before Christmas, retold and illustrated by Rachel Isadora (2009): Set in an African village, I wasn’t able to find what exactly made this “retold,” but the art is definitely unique for this title! (Santa has dreads and is wearing some funky orange giraffe-print pants!) While it looks pretty much like it’s all collage, tell-tale brushstrokes and swirls give away the oil paints that were used in addition to printed paper and palette paper. My favorite image is the last page where a pudgy little girl, surrounded by her family, is pointing up at Santa’s sleigh as it passes in front of the moon. (Uses “Happy Christmas to all” and Donder for the second-to-last reindeer.)
The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Moore, illustrated by Tomie de Paola (1980): Tomie de Paola’s trademark style is clearly evident throughout this version. It is set in (according to the book flap) New England in the mid-nineteenth century, so the setting is relatively austere and the decorations simple. The illustrations are set on the page with the text within borders that give each page the appearance of being made of quilt squares. (Uses “Happy Christmas to all” and Donder for the second-to-last reindeer.)
The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Cheryl Harness (1989): If the home in the de Paola version is simple, this one is opulant! The setting is Victorian, and there is a vast difference between this and the New England home. Shelves of books, striped wallpaper, vast drapery, ornate carvings, lacy doilies…it’s nearly overwhelming! Despite all that, it kind of seems to fit the mental image I have of that poem’s setting, and it is Christmas-card gorgeous, so it’s worth a look as well! (Uses “Happy Christmas to all” at the end and Donder for the second-to-last reindeer.)
Librarian’s Night Before Christmas, by David Davis, illustrated by Jim Harris (2007): I’ll leave you with just one more book–more for grown-ups than the kids (they don’t get references to library funding!)–as a thanks to all the librarians and clerks who had to gather up my vast holds list so I could write these reviews! The book is funny and full of inside jokes and literary references, and it would be a perfect gift for that librarian-in-training on your gift list this year! Make sure you thank your local guardians of information for the great work they do all year!
Merry Christmas to all (unless you want a Happy Christmas instead!), and to all a good night!
(Have a favorite version of this story that I haven’t mentioned? Tell me in the comments!)