Our book for today’s picture book countdown is older and occasionally difficult to find. My treasured book is an ex-library copy with a sad missing jacket cover. The dull gray binding is hiding great beauty beneath, so I will share two spreads in this somewhat quick post. Here is Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent, 1983.
Ernest and Celestine are a duo originally published in French. This special Christmas story may seem abrupt to a reader who has not already made acquaintance with the two friends as the format of Ernest and Celestine stories consists purely of dialogue. There is no intro to them here, but instead a beautiful dance between reading the written dialogue and studying the stunning illustrations.
Ernest is a large brown bear and Celestine a sweet little mouse that he cares for. I have only seen the first book about them once, but frequently watch the trailer for a stunning animation based on their story. I hope to see the movie someday but have yet to acquire it! The trailer gives some hints at background information, but really, any reader should be able to pick up this Christmas story and delight in it by itself.
It is almost Christmas and Celestine eagerly reminds Ernest that he promised they would have a party. However, they have no money and Ernest is reluctant until Celestine dramatically convinces him they can do it with a little creativity. They find a tree, make invitations and even presents for their guests, and they gather supplies from surprising places to create costumes and decorations. When the guests begin to arrive, everything is marvelous until Celestine’s older cousin Max spoils the mood with complaints and criticisms. Ernest and Celestine fight through his attitude and create a festive celebration enjoyed by all the sweet other mice. Santa Claus even appears and delights everyone, especially when he reveals himself as Ernest after Celestine distresses over not being able to find her beloved caretaker.
The party continues with a lovely storytime by Ernest (my favorite part of course) and even cousin Max can be seen listening in despite of himself. As everyone begins to tire, the parents arrive to collect their children and everyone agrees it was a most splendid party, even cousin Max! It is indeed a Merry Christmas for Ernest and Celestine.
While entering this book can feel a bit jolting at first with just reading straight dialogue, once you are in it, it becomes quite entrancing with the simple conversations encased with breathtaking illustrations. I swoon for Vincent’s compositions and soft paintings. Her characters are so expressive from their faces down to their toes and she marvelously pictures Celestine as a very dramatic child, something that resonates with most parents of young children I’m sure. While throwing a party such as this would be great work and they do not shy from showing their exhausted efforts, it is such a joy for all to celebrate love and friendship despite lack of funds. Ernest and Celestine are so full of love and care for each other, it just bubbles out of the pages and leaves you feeling so warm and loving. It makes me want to throw a small festive party of my own, especially if I get to have a storytime too!
Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas Books 2014!