Prather’s Pick: “The Night Before Christmas in Ski Country” is a modern holiday tale

I know that it isn’t Thanksgiving yet, but you might want to hunt up this week’s book in time for Christmas. “The Night Before Christmas in Ski Country” is a brand new picture book that readers of all ages will enjoy.

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Diane Prather

This modern variation of “The Night Before Christmas” classic, was written by Suzanne Nieman Brown and illustrated by Dana Schlingman. Both author and illustrator are Colorado residents. The book is published by Westcliffe Publishers (an imprint of Big Earth Publishing) in Boulder.

Wait until you see the watercolor illustrations in this book. They’re absolutely beautiful!

The story is told in verse, as with the classic version. The setting is Ski Country, specifically a “charming ski town.” There’s a problem this Christmas, however. There’s very little snow. In fact, in town the ground is bare. The ski lifts shut down early because the snow conditions aren’t good for any of the winter sporting events. Things don’t look good for this Ski Country Christmas.

The story begins in a charming house that’s been built in the shadow of the ski mountains. The outside of the house is decorated with sparkling lights and a big wreath. A lit-up tree can be seen through a window. Someone is sitting upstairs in front of a roaring fire.

As the story opens, the reader meets the narrator. She’s the mother of a family, and she’s enjoying a cup of cocoa as she sits in a rocking chair in front of the fire. Her son, Little Andy, already has hung the stockings and has put out cookies, a glass of milk and a carrot for Santa. In his letter to Santa, Andy wrote that his number one wish is for a white Christmas.

All of a sudden, she hears a splash. When she rushes to the window, Mother sees eight giant elk, all harnessed up to a sleigh. Santa is there, too, and he has driven the elk into the hot tub. Three of the elk still are in the tub, in fact. Santa is getting a big laugh at the predicament.

He calls the elk by name so that they can continue the flight. “On, Aspen! On, Vail! Come, Copper and Winter Park! On, Keystone! On, Steamboat! On, Breckenridge and Monarch!”

The wet elk take off. A cute dog rides in the sleigh with Santa. He’s gray and white with brown eyebrows and brown and white feet.

Santa comes back to the house, though, and he and the dog pop down the chimney. This is a modern Santa, indeed. He isn’t chubby, but he does sport a white beard and is dressed in red. Santa wears a quilted vest and has a helmet on top of his head. Santa even wears goggles. Mother notices the red brace on his leg, which Santa attributes to “epic tricks and a bad landing.” Mother pictures him riding on a snowboard, complete with S.C. initials.

Mother explains how awful Ski Country Christmas will be without snow, and Santa reaches into his backpack and searches for something. He pulls out a magical Icicle Star, but it has melted. No magic to produce snow.

Santa tells Mother that there aren’t many Magical Icicle Stars. They come from the snow off a tall evergreen tree; it’s snow on which the light of the North Star has fallen. In order to find the evergreen, a person, one who “holds the spirit of Christmas so dear,” must brave lots of obstacles, including a waterfall, a number of wild animals, aspen trees and more.

Andy and Santa’s dog sneak out of the house and go in search of another Icicle Star. Can they find one in time to save Ski Country Christmas?

This book is a limited edition. According to its press release, the book can be found at fine book and gift retailers in Colorado. The 2013 book costs $17.95 in hardcover.

This is a great book that would make a nice Christmas gift.

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