The Christmas Grump


Written and Illustrated by Joseph Low

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1977

Something about Christmas bothered Sam.  When he saw Christmas coming, he got more and more grumpy.  “Such a fuss about nothing!” he thought.

What kind of animal?  It’s a mouse

How is it spending Christmas?  Being grumpy

I'm glad Sam got a new silk coat, but he's pretty dashing in that sweater, too.

I’m glad Sam got a new silk coat, but he’s pretty dashing in that sweater, too.

Sam thinks Christmas is ridiculous, with the decorations and the music and all the presents, especially when no one has ever given him a present.  He starts messing with things around the house, knocking presents off the closet shelf, scratching the Christmas record and kicking the stockings off the mantel.  On Christmas Eve, though, as he’s trying to chew through the tree, Santa Claus shows up.  Santa straightens up the presents and hangs the stockings up, then notices Sam’s mouse hole.  He realizes that Sam has been forgotten, so he gets a small box from his pack and places it beside the mouse hole.  Sam opens his present and finds cheese, crackers, some jelly beans and a pink silk coat.  His mood entirely changed, Sam starts fixing the damage he had done earlier and even doing a little extra decorating by weaving ribbons around the presents.  He sits up listening to the new Christmas record over and over and falls asleep.  The children love all the new decorations and Sam feels happiest of all, vowing to never be a Christmas grump again.

This was one of the Christmas books I read to my kids when they were young.  Author/illustrator Joseph Low contributed cover illustrations to The New Yorker for 40 years and won the Caldecott Honor for Mice Twice in 1981.  The artwork in this book captures the feel of children’s books in the 1970’s, with pen and ink drawings painted in shades of only a couple of colors, pink and yellow in this case.  The artwork helps carry the story, though, and Sam is drawn as such a lovable character that his transformation, when he sees how much fun it can be to give to others, can’t help but make you smile.  The idea of him singing quietly along with the Christmas record is just wonderful. 

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that sometimes one kind gesture can change a person’s (or a mouse’s) whole outlook on life.


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