We are five days into this Christmas picture book journey and I actually have a brand new Christmas book to share. I always find it a little difficult to add a new book to my Christmas collection because the classics are classics for a reason and they edge out all other books, often without competition. Today’s book however, is in the process of making its way out and I think it is worth a look. It is a first picture book from a generous new author and digital illustrator duo who are hoping to push their way into the market. Allow me to introduce you to The Night Before The Night Before Christmas by Jay Dee, illustrated by Darren Geers, 2014.
It is the evening before Santa’s big night of Christmas Eve and his workshop is chaotic with final preparations on all the toys. The head elf is keeping things humming and on task, everything that is except Elfie. A test to all the other elves’ patience, Elfie is a slow worker because he wants his toy work to be absolutely perfect. No detail falls unnoticed but it unfortunately tasks Elfie’s productivity and his to-do list is far behind. While he tries to finish up his work on his first toy, Santa arrives for inspection. Although he is proud of his work on the toy train, Elfie fears Santa’s anger at all he has left undone. The man in the very large red suit however, lives up to his reputation of kindness and surprises everyone with not only his response to Elfie’s work; but also the news of to whom the train is a gift.
This book was a big surprise for me. Maybe I was having a more lazy reading moment than normal, but I totally didn’t see the baby in the manger twist coming. Rarely are Santa and the Nativity mentioned in a story together (my favorite of all time would be this one) but if they are, let’s be honest and say that it is usually terribly done. Somehow, this story did not feel overly forced. It was a bit of a jolting surprise, but it didn’t rub me the wrong way either. I like the concept of Santa Claus and I appreciate the author’s efforts to celebrate the fun character but still bring focus back to the first Christmas story. I actually love the humanity that this story attributes to baby Jesus by putting him on level with every other kid in the world wanting presents and toys. As a parent of a toddler now, this is my first year where I’ve debated the whole Santa issue and how we want to handle him along with our Christian traditions. I’m thrilled to have a book that allows both to be present in the crazy holiday season.
Since this is a new book and I have more to say, forgive this review for being longer than my normal quick posts during this Advent series. I want to note that I did receive this book from the author in hopes that I would review it. I never promise a review when someone wants to show me a book and I’m extremely critical of books, especially independently published ones. I do have some notes and critiques of the book, especially regarding paper and typography and some tighter editing, but I was delighted by my first read through and have continued to ponder it over the last few weeks so I think it has some staying-power. It is a book I desire to share and am sure others will enjoy as well.
Now, I need to talk illustrations. This story is digitally illustrated and I’m surprised to say I really like it. While upon close inspection the illustrations are indeed pixelated and it screams digital illustration, they are quite impressive and lovely. The color palette is unique, not using all the bold and vibrant colors typical to a picture book, but rather having a more muted and earthy tone to them. There is actually a very interesting tone shift from outside the workshop to inside the workshop that is only seen twice, and its use in the very end has a strong implication of a shift in mood and focus. I would love to have a conversation with the creators about the interesting use of a game illustrator for a picture book sometime, but that will have to wait for another day. I actually think it is fascinating and expect it would give them a unique addition to its audience with kids who love that style but never see it in picture books. I am enjoying this first creation from these two, and I hope to see more.
If you have made it this far in my review, you deserve a reward. I actually have a copy of this book to give to someone! It is paperback, as that seems to be the only round of production currently, but I sincerely want it to find a good home. If you would like it, please leave a comment here by midnight on Sunday, December 7, and I promise to ship it out asap so you can read it hopefully on the specific night of its title. Comment something interesting and related to the post please and I’ll use a random selection process to pick the winner. *This giveaway is closed! The winner is comment number 4 by Karen. Please use my contact form and message me your address and I’ll ship it out asap! Thanks for commenting!*
I hope you’ve enjoyed this somewhat different review amidst all the wonderfully old Christmas books. Do check out the book and its website if it so interests you!
And follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas Books 2014! I’ll see you tomorrow.