25 Days – Book 11: The Night Before Christmas Illustrated by Duvoisin

Day 11 of our Advent countdown and it is time to add another book to “The Night Before Christmas” tag. I just cannot resist. And honestly, no offense Mr. Moore, but it isn’t because of the poem. Yes, I appreciate the lovely wording and beautiful imagery he penned; but most fascinating to me in each of these many duplicate-named books is the interpretation by the different illustrators. I especially love when a well-known and beloved illustrator takes their turn with the text. So let’s take a look at the gorgeous, classic, and recently reissued version of that famous poem, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, 1954.

First thing to note here is the book size. It is a unique trim, being long and skinny. Perfect for a stocking stuffer actually, though your stocking better be secured onto the mantle tightly to hold a book plus other things! Also, while we are on production notes, I obviously love the uncoated paper stock inside, because I tend to obsess over things like that. And being produced in the 50s means this book boasts the every other spread, two-color printing trick, typically done to save cost. In this case, Duvoisin’s vibrant, primary color palette (+ green because, Christmas of course!) can be seen on every other spread, and the opposite spreads have black and red ink.

And because that trim size is so important to note for the uniqueness of this book to be realized, here is the reason why the trim size works so well:

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Yes, this guy opens the book and fits so perfectly, which is actually a little surprising due to his girth.

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So, I’m going to assume as usual that you know the gist of the story. Duvoisin interprets the poem in a lovely home setting in a gorgeous suburban town that has one of the best skylines in vintage book form. I love the snow-topped houses and the solid colors alternating.

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A few things I love about Duvoisin’s surprising illustrative style include his use of angles. While his characters and background objects tend to be rather flat in style, the layout of each scene always presents strong angles. Just note the above spread. Duvoisin creates suspense with this character’s awkwardly angled body struggling to peer out the window. It peaks curiosity. It drives the page turn. It is beautiful and genius.

Also, this page. Note the super strong angle of the roof and the awesome use of white space (as snow of course!)

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And then we have one of the pages that fights to be my favorite: Santa descending the chimney. That left page below gives you all the explanation you need for the shape of the book. And the text placement? Well done designer, well done.

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Every time I open this book, I find myself discovering another awesome detail, or angle, or hidden gem of Duvoisin’s brilliance. It is strange in a way as I was not immediately drawn to Duvoisin’s style when I first encountered it. Not until I met Petunia and fell completely in love with her story did I start to grow fond of Duvoisin’s expressive style.

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And can we just swoon over the 1950s toys Santa leaves behind? Also, please note the Happy Lion Easter egg in that red stocking! That’s Duvoisin’s little wink of fun for the observant reader.

So, without (much) more drooling, I bid you farewell for today and hope to see you tomorrow as we continue my 25 Days of Christmas Children’s Books countdown! Go with this final illustration of the book, because it doesn’t get much better than this for a closing, wordless page.

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2 thoughts on “25 Days – Book 11: The Night Before Christmas Illustrated by Duvoisin

  1. It was interesting to read your review of this book. I have a small collection of “Night before Christmas” books, and this one is one of my favorites. I love the size & shape of the book. I love the 50ies style with the limited number of colors. And the uniquenesses that you describe so well in your review.

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  2. I love these illustrations, but unlike you, I can’t stand this poem! I try to avoid reading it so we don’t have any of its many illustrated versions in the house. I did enjoy looking at this one though (probably because I didn’t have to read the words!) 🙂 Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday this week! It’s a pleasure having you!
    Tina

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