Diane Prather: A Christmas keepsake

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Recently I ordered a Christmas book for my niece's little girl. It turns out that the book is special enough to be a keepsake.

"The Night Before Christmas," the picture book's title, is based on the original poem that was first published anonymously in 1823 in a New York newspaper.

According to a little history section at the end of the book, Clement Clark Moore claimed authorship for the poem, also known as "A Visit from St. Nicholas," in 1844.

This week's traditional version of "The Night Before Christmas" was illustrated by award-winning artist Lee Krutop.

The illustrations are absolutely grogeous.

Every two pages features a big pop-up illustration. On the first two pages, for example, there's a great big two-story house. Its setting is a winter scene with snow-covered trees, a clear sky that sparkles with stars and a full moon.

The big gingerbread-looking house takes up a full page, top to bottom. The windows are cut out, and the double doors can be opened up. What reader wouldn't want to take a peek?

The doors open to a winding staircase in a parlor. To the left is a dining room with a big dining room table that's already been set with plates and silverware wrapped in red napkins. An angel serves as a centerpiece, the chairs have red cushions, and red garland hangs from the tablecloth.

To the right of the parlor the reader finds a charming room with a fireplace, a beautifully decorated tree and four stockings hung on the fireplace mantle.

Upstairs "the children are nestled all snug in their beds." So are mamma and "I" (the narrator of the poem).

Between the two bedrooms is another staircase that leads to the attic, and the reader gets to see what's stored there.

Three little birds are asleep at the very tip-top of the inside of the roof.

What wonderful detail. Readers won't be able to resist visiting the house over and over again.

The poem continues with pop-ups at every turn of the page, with more cut-outs and a window that opens. And there's more to this interactive book.

Santa invites the reader to help fill the stockings. By lifting the flap of his bag, one finds all kinds of toys that can be placed in the slots at the stocking tops.

An audio CD is included, too, which follows the book's text exactly.

What a gorgeous pop-up tree is found at the very end of the book. It's decorated with lots of ornaments, some of which sparkle.

The cover of the book is partially covered with a red velvet-like material.

Because of the small toy pieces, the book is not recommended for children younger than 3, but who wouldn't want to supervise its reading?

"The Night Before Christmas" is published by Five Mile Press (2006). It costs $24.99 in hardcover, although I got mine a little cheaper through a book club. ISBN 1-74178-120-5

Copyright Diane Prather/ 2006

All rights reserved.

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