Just Right for Christmas, by Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw (2011)
On Christmas Eve, the king is strolling through the market when he comes across a roll of red cloth that he proclaims “so red and soft and Christmassy!” and which he buys in order to have a Christmas cloak made for the princess. When the sewing maids complete the cloak before lunch, he has them place the leftover material in a bundle outside the back door. Another maid who is leaving her shift sees the bundle and thinks the material would make a perfect jacket for a gift for her mother. She finishes by dinnertime and puts the bundle of scraps outside her back door so her surprise won’t be ruined. Bertie Badger comes along and sees the scraps and decides they would make a perfect hat for his father. When he also puts the scraps outside, Samuel Squirrel finds them and decides to make gloves for his wife, and the last, tiny scrap blows out of his house where Millie Mouse happens upon it and makes a scarf for her tiny son Billy. In the end, they all open their gifts and find that each present is “so soft and red and Christmassy and [feels] just right…just how Christmas should feel.”
The art in this book is described as mixed media, and it appears to be mostly paint and collage. The animals are depicted as almost completely anthropomorphic, interacting with humans and creating sewing projects with human tools, but they maintain approximately their appropriate size and the squirrel lives in a tree house. There is a good bit of texture and interesting patterning in the book, and the layout of the pages varies from full-page spreads to small scene progression images on a colored background with subtle image outlines for texture. The collage element, in particular, seems appropriate considering the crafty things going on throughout the book!
BoyChild was able to predict what was going to happen next (someone will pick up the scraps, make something, then set the scraps outside) well, and he even guessed that either a mouse or a bird (the next smaller thing he could think of after a squirrel) would pick up the last scrap. Several elements helped with creating progression and predictability in the book, including how the amount of the scraps and the size of the gifter gets smaller and smaller, the size and fanciness of the packaging gets less and less, and the time references (lunchtime, dinnertime, six o’clock, midnight) throughout. BoyChild kept asking, “Is that the princess?” because he was expecting the pattern of seeing the gift made and then seeing it given, but the anticipation of waiting for the gift-giving all at the end worked well. It was a nice touch to have all the people and creatures mentioned open their gifts in order (with a reminder of the gift and the packaging) and to have them all ice-skating together in the end. GirlChild really liked that they passed on the scraps (she thought it was to intentionally share (which might have been a good element to include, actually)) and were able to make just the right gift for their loved ones. In the end, handmade gifts of love received with gratitude are what really makes this book “just how Christmas should feel”!