In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas recitations

Dear Annie,

One of our family's big Christmas Eve traditions is an out-loud reading of our collection of kids' Christmas books.  The finale of this hours-long event is a group reading of The Night Before Christmas.  Two versions come out of our special bag of Christmas books -- I'm not sure where either one came from.

Tasha Tudor's 1975-ish version
. My scanner is still on the fritz, alas, so I can't show you her lovely internal illustrations.  They're very impressionistic.  Santa is definitely elfin: small and bright-eyed, dressed in fur and partying with the family's cats and dogs (corgis, of course: Tudor had a thing for them).  Some of the pictures show the parlor in cross-section, with a family of mice (and a few birds) decorating a tree under the floorboards.  Perhaps where Jan Brett got her ideas from.

Our other one was illustrated by Arthur Rackham in 1931.  Santa's a little guy in this one too -- how did he end up so big and fat in the current culture?  I found several illustrations from his Night Before Christmas on, an interesting little website that appears to post illustrations from no-longer-copyrighted classic children's books.  It's aimed at collectors, but has some lovely stuff to poke around in.

Both of these books are out of print these days. 

One of the interesting things about a group read-aloud is that we discovered not all versions of Clement Moore's poem are the same.  The Tudor book has the words I'm most familiar with:
And Mama in her kerchief
  and I in my cap
Had just settled down
  for a long winter's nap,
Now Rackham:
And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

Settling brains -- harder on the meter, but a better image.

Am off to settle my brain.



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