Written and Illustrated by Alexandra Day
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1990
“We’re going to Grandma’s and then to church. Take good care of the baby, Carl.”
What kind of animal? It’s a Rottweiler
How is it spending Christmas? Having a holiday adventure with the baby
Carl is left in charge of the baby on Christmas Eve. When the next picture shows Carl carrying the baby downstairs on his back, you just know he has something planned. First, Carl takes the baby into the living room to show her the Christmas tree. The baby decorates a small plant with ribbons and tissue paper. Then Carl dresses her up in warm pajamas and a hat and out they go into the snow. At the toy store, Carl stops to notice a sign advertising that the 1000th customer will win a basket full of toys, so he goes in and, of course, wins the basket, which he gives to a Santa collecting for the needy. (The baby donates her hat.) They stop to join a pack of carolers and pick up a stray dog friend (and a new scarf for the baby). They get home and fall asleep in front of the fireplace; Carl, the baby, the stray dog, a cat and two mice. Carl awakens when he hears a noise and runs outside, stopping short when he comes face to face with reindeer. He carries Santa’s bag into the house for him and helps Santa hand out the presents. Then Carl carries the sleeping baby upstairs and falls asleep by the crib, wearing his new Christmas collar from Santa.
Carl’s Christmas is the third in a series of more than twenty books about this exceptional dog. Author/illustrator Alexandra Day used her own Rottweiler, Toby, as the original model for Carl. The opening line quoted above is the only text in the book, as all the other pages are wordless. This means, of course, that my summary of the story is only my interpretation of it, since a story in pictures relies on the inference of its reader to really bring it to life. That’s what I love about this kind of story, though, and this book is a wonderful example of how artwork can be so visually expressive that words are entirely unnecessary. It would be fun to read through this with a child and have them tell you the story as they see it. Yes, you may have to overcome your parental instinct when it questions the merit of leaving a baby in the care of a dog, but the effort is worth it, especially if you’re a dog lover.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the best babysitters are loving, generous, playful, adventurous, protective and full of the Christmas spirit.