Written by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Mike Lester
Grosset & Dunlap, 2002
‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas with too much to do.
Our tree wasn’t up yet, and Mom had the flu.
The plot in a nutshell: Everything seems to be going wrong for this family’s Christmas season, until Dad makes an astute observation
The little girl who narrates this story is having a tough holiday. Her mother is sick, their Christmas cookies burned, all the good Christmas trees have already been sold and the stockings have holes in them. When Dad realizes that they need replacement bulbs for their Christmas lights, he bundles the family into the car for a trip to the mall (which is never good news during the Christmas rush). They wait for hours to see Santa Claus and the baby wets his pants on Santa’s lap. When they get home, their cat has pretty much destroyed everything in the house and Mom bursts into tears, declaring Christmas to be ruined. Dad, however, points out that all this stuff is just ‘stuff’ and that their family has plenty of love. He tucks Mom into bed for a badly needed nap and Dad and the kids do their best to put the house right and redecorate. The book ends with Dad beginning to read them The Night Before Christmas as snow starts to fall.
Author Natasha Wing should know her way around a ‘night before’ book, as she has written more than a dozen of them, covering the nights before most of the major holidays and personal milestones as well, such as kindergarten, summer vacation and a new baby. This one focuses on all the things that keep us so busy during the holidays, many of which can seem more important than they really are. Ms. Wing keeps the verse light and humorous and illustrator Mike Lester matches the tone with artwork that feels as though it came from a Saturday morning cartoon show (and I mean that in a good way). I like the fact that Dad isn’t the typical clueless father that you see so often in stories like this. When he steps in to give the family some perspective, we get to see him leading by example and taking care of his wife and kids. It’s a sweet ending to a comical story.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, especially at Christmas, it’s good to focus on what really matters.