Day 12 has arrived which means we are almost halfway through our countdown to Christmas! Today I bring a humorous book about families and the holiday. It is the story of two girls who are neighbors and how their families celebrate Christmas in their own unique way. It’s The Perfect Christmas by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi, 2011.
The narrator is one of the girls and opens with her commenting on how her neighbor, Abigail Archer, has a perfect family who drives into the countryside to chop down their Christmas tree. The girl’s own family however, has a fake tree that is barely holding together. They decorate differently. Their grandmothers make cookies differently. Their dogs are night and day with manners. Their extended family arrives to celebrate in completely different styles. The girl finds lots of differences in her family and her friend’s, but in the end, the two families converge in excitement because of snow. It is a sweet ending to their perfect Christmases.
In every single comparison, Abigail Archer’s family is obviously richer and more glamorous; while the narrating girl’s family is more homemade and quirky. But there doesn’t seem to be any envy in the comparison. Perhaps it depends on the tone you take in reading it, but even in the illustrations, I don’t see a hint of embarrassment or loathing in the girl’s observations. They just appear as observations, which seems like a true definition of a “perfect Christmas.” You find joy in your own traditions. You find uniqueness and family moments in your own ways of doing things. You can admire another’s family, but you’ll find the perfect celebration in your own home.
I discovered this book this year while searching for new books for the Christmas countdown. I’m becoming a big fan of Eileen Spinelli’s writing and I love the way she handles the comparisons here without downplaying the less glamorous girl’s family.
In all honesty, I have gone back and forth on my feelings about the illustrations. This isn’t a style I am particularly drawn to with its more imperfect collage parts; but my thoughts have more wondered about the appropriateness of the style for the story. I like this style for the narrator’s home and celebrations. It fits her. But, a part of me wanted more glamour, more polish, more “perfect” illustrations for the Archer family’s pages. The more I thought it through though, I actually like that this style was used for the whole thing as changing illustrations might have made one family seem more desirable than the other, which would deflate the meaning I perceive about finding perfection in the family you’ve got. It is also told from the perspective of the less-glamorous girl and like I said, the collage on craft paper style fits her family and story best. It is a sweet, homey story with a simple message about family and friendship.
Here’s hoping you find the secret to a perfect Christmas in your own family and traditions. Hope to see you tomorrow as we continue my 25 Days of Christmas Children’s Books countdown!