I am just going to start right off the bat with this one: this is one of the best Christmas books I’ve ever read. It’s one of my new favorite children’s books.
First, there are the illustrations alone. They capture life on a specific time, place, fashion, and season as well as the action so that with every turn you feel you’ve watched a scene. Seriously, by the end I felt I had watched a movie. There is a fair portion of dialog in the brief reading for each two page spread or art, in addition to great description, so that adds to the moving feel. The illustrations are large and each one so beautiful it could be hung as a painting; they aren’t quite realistic but rather tinted a bit ideally and hazy, like we remember childhood.
The second thing this has going to for it is story itself. In a few hundred words total, along with the pictures, the writer manages to create suspense and emotion. The descriptions of surroundings and feelings are accessible to small people, but relatable to all ages. A little girl prepares for her holiday festivities taking note of the organ grinder outside and his monkey. She becomes increasing worried about where they go in the cold, as oblivious to the polite restrictions on her interactions with the stranger as the concerned adults are to her Christmas spirit. The writing is excellent and all the morals subtle, but the ending isn’t and I got a little choked up– in a good way.
Third, and most importantly, there is a little monkey with hat! Questionable animal servitude aside (he’s very nice to the monkey), Evy was super excited to see the large images, hear the dialog, and point out the monkey!
This really is on par with The Polar Express. It brings Great Joy.
-Evy and Me.