On this eighth day of December, I bring a pathetic paperback copy of a darling little book. You must meet the Mellop family! This is the Christmas edition from a delightful series of books about a family of pigs with fantastic names, adventurous spirits, and generous hearts. Come have Christmas Eve at the Mellops’ by Tomi Ungerer, 1960.
The story begins with Mr. Mellop sharing an article with his boys about Christmas tree decorations. The pictures spark ideas for each boy and they separately set out to bring a beautiful tree home for Christmas hoping to surprise everyone. On Christmas Eve the home was filled with four trees and many tears. Their father has another brilliant thought and sends the boys out with their lovely trees to find a place that needs cheering.
One stop after another brings more disappointment as trees seem to be everywhere. Finally, as they start to toss the trees away, they are met with a poor pig girl who shows them a depressing house with four Christmas-less apartments. The pig boys jump into holiday cheer wholeheartedly and fill the place with decor as well as necessities and extra items to brighten the lives there. It is a joyous occasion and they return home, not only pleased with themselves, but to find gifts* from their parents including “a marzipan sausage for the dog.” That always cracks me up!
This is such a sweet and simple story, and yet deep and heartwarming. There are so many delightful details sprinkled throughout, all speaking to the genius artistry of Tomi Ungerer. I cannot help but be amused by things like the paper Father is reading having a label that says “Sat. Evening Pork” or the street sign the boys pass at one point. And their names! Casimir, Isidor, Felix and Ferdinand are such excellent character names.
Ungerer’s linework and spare color is so impressive. There is a large amount of blank space in every spread and it works perfectly with keeping the composition moving and creating shapes out of disconnected lines. It is a light quick read, but one that you’ll find yourself returning to and spending more and more time with each page discovering quirky and fun additions.
This is a book with humor, delight, love, generosity and an excellent amount of Christmas heart. May you also go out and find a way to bring “Christmas to every room” you encounter this season.
Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas in 2013.
*One disclaimer I’m sad to make is the addition of a Christmas gift for one of the boys being an “Indian” headdress. This is a 60s book and that stereotype sneaks itself in unfortunately. Read with awareness!