April 12, 2016

Friday, December 24, 2010

Poetry Friday: The Visit

Many PF friends have been posting wonderful picture book versions of Clement Clark Moore's "The Night Before Christmas."

And I keep commenting, "There's a great picture book about the family story behind Moore's poem. I'll let you know the title when I find it."

After much searching through holiday decorations and a house disheveled by fresh paint and new floors, I recovered The Visit: The Delightful History and Origin of 'The Night Before Christmas' as Recalled by Dinghy Sharp, storyteller and great-great-granddaughter of author, Clement Clark Moore. How's that for a subtitle?!

This book is a holiday gem for kids who know and love "The Night Before Christmas," but are ready for a little more. Maybe they are older and interested in history like my almost-11 year old, or maybe they are fascinated by other families and their traditions.

It's written by Mark Kimball Moulton and illustrated to recall a simpler time by Susan Winget. Think Currier and Ives done in deep, rich colors. It came out in 2001 from Lang Books. Here's an alternate cover that gives a sense of the art.

The opening message from Dinghy Sharp reads, "Since The Night Before Christmas first appeared, we're certain many have wondered about the story behind the story. How did this cherished poem come to be? What inspired a principled, highly educated Biblical scholar to create such a tender and magical Christmas tale?"

The answer is in verse. Author Moulton matches the rhyme scheme and meter of the original poem as he shares Dinghy Sharp's memory of a holiday visit to her own grandfather, when he sat the children down near his chair and began,

"Let me tell you a story," he said as he smiled,
"that my very own Granddad first told his own child..."

As Sharp's grandfather tells the story of the poem, he remembers his own 1820s childhood. Memories of the children washing out and drying their stockings each night so they'd be clean for school the next day are interwoven with lines from the poem...

"We'd rub them and scrub them and hang them to dry,
'by the chimney with care,' as this tale will imply."

The grandfather explains other parts of the poem that modern kids might not "get": why the parents wear a kerchief and cap to bed, what sugarplums are, what is meant by a courser.

In this way, the book becomes a kind of verse annotation to Moore's poem.

We also learn about Charity Moore, Clement's sickly daughter,

"And the one gift that Charity  had asked for that year
was a simple, new story from her Papa, dear."

I won't give away any more, but I will say that we see a wonderful, real life inspiration for the Santa character (down to the the red suit) in the poem.

The book closes with a reprinting of Moore's poem in his own handwriting, with signature and date. Nice touch.

Happy holidays, everyone! My gift to you for Christmas -- my long awaited interview with Muriel Weinstein, author of the chapter book bio of Louis Armstrong Play, Louis, Play! will finally be up tomorrow.

Celebrate Christmas Eve and Poetry Friday posts at Mary Lee's house. I can't wait to see how she's decorated "A Reading Year" for the holidays!


Tabatha said...

Thanks for letting us know about The Gift. The text and illustrations both look marvelous. I have to share that with my kids. (Mary Lee is hosting the round-up this week, btw.)

Jeannine Atkins said...

Laura, I'm happy you found this book, which is right up my alley (too much cookie baking today to come up with a non cliche). Thank you! And best wishes for some days with the kids and a happy new year.

Madigan Mirza said...

Beautiful illustrations! I will have to check this one out.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha, Jeannine and Madigan. Hope you are having a wonderful winter celebration. We're between fishes #2 and 3.

"The Visit" was a gift from the grandparents. The book includes a "Gift Plate" in the front for dated dedication if you give the book to a child or friend.

Mary Lee said...

Sounds like you had the feast of 7 fishes, or whatever it's called. Hope there were plenty of pizzelles to go around, too!

I just went to A Big Online Bookseller to check out this title and WOW! it's quite dear...guess I'll try my luck with a used copy. It looks like a must have!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Mary Lee. We did about five fishes and yes, plenty of pizzelles.

Good luck finding a copy of "The Visit." Definitely a 'must have' and something a little different.

Author Amok said...

Wow, Mary Lee. You weren't kidding! I doubt my kids GPs spend $400+ for the book (is Amazon kidding?!)

I did find a used copy through for a reasonable $17.