Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Picture Book Review: Christmas Magic

Written by Sue Stainton
Illustrated by Eva Melhuish
Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, 2007

Here’s a Christmas picture book with glitter on the front cover, a diminutive and playful Santa Claus character who looks like a little elf, and a mystery to be solved: The magical reindeer bells are missing! Where, oh where, could they be? All the animals of the forest have a treasure hunt to find them—just as Santa had planned.

The forest creatures—including reindeer, a rabbit, a squirrel, a fox, a mouse, an owl and other birds— set off on their quest. They look high and low for the missing bells. They follow footprints in the snow. They listen for the jingling of reindeer bells. They even play tricks on each other. And they travel deeper and deeper into an ever-darkening forest in their search until…

All is quiet, all is black. They are lost.

They have not gone this far into the forest before. Ever.
The trees seem to close in behind them. Silence.

The animals become frightened. Then the moon comes out and lights up the forest. Surprise! That’s when they see a huge evergreen tree bedecked with red bows…and the missing reindeer bells! Music fills the forest. An excited Santa jumps out from behind the tree and does a cartwheel in the snow. He throws Christmas magic into the sky that sparkles all around them. The happy animals laugh and dance and look up at a night sky lit with shooting stars and moonbeams.

Christmas Magic is a slight mystery with a spare text. It is a book best for reading to just one or two young children who could look for and point out the little clues left for readers in the illustrations: a mitten in the snow and glimpses of the red tassel of Santa’s hat and the glow of his lantern.

Melhuish’s child-friendly illustrations suit this light-hearted holiday tale. Her art captures the playfulness of the story characters. Pictures of the creatures and Santa playing tricks and cavorting in the snow are set against a white background. Other pictures, set against a purplish-blue night, evoke a kind of wintry forest wonderland. The double-page spread of the animals lost deep in the forest is spooky—lit only by pairs of eyes staring out from the darkness.

I’ve been told by my friends who run a children’s book shop that they have gotten good feedback from customers about Christmas Magic. It appears that young children enjoy the story and especially like the illustrations. One of them has read it to her grandsons who are captivated by the spooky illustration of the animals lost in the woods.

Click here to see inside the book.

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