THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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All the mice are asleep on the night before Christmas, as readers and listeners familiar with Clement Clarke Moore’s celebrated poem know. Illustrator Dunn reinforces the opening line by depicting a mouse looking quite comfortable under a quilt, sound asleep. But rather than “children” being nestled in their beds, here there are baby bunnies, and readers will quickly realize that the star of this retelling is Papa Rabbit. He is the great-great-grandfather of Paisley Rabbit, the hero of Richardson and Dunn’s Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest (2018). It’s Papa Rabbit, with his bright eyes, charming nose, and quirky nightcap, who reveals that St. Nick is a large polar bear delivering gifts to all. Richardson’s witty changes keep the basics of the poem while introducing specific animal descriptions: “His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! / His nose was all wet and his cheeks were all hairy.” As in the original, the narrator and St. Nick have a close encounter before the jolly visitor wishes a Merry Christmas to all. While the rabbit and St. Nick are both anthropomorphized, the reindeer remain in their traditional animal forms and harnesses. Dunn’s gorgeous paintings are enchanting, full of Christmas cheer, and the ingenious spin makes this a wonderful addition to any collection, even those with several versions of the poem.

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