In 1822 Clement Clarke Moore wrote The Night before Christmas for his own children. Now, of course, his poem is read aloud to children around the world who are anticipating Santa's arrival.
This Christmas Eve tradition calls for the treat of Julie Downing's wondrous visual rendition. Her jewel-toned watercolors, vibrant with rich Victorian detail, contain little surprises all along the way. Both children and grown-ups will respond to the luminous images -- the waiting tree, the astonished narrator, jolly Santa and his reindeer, and even the mouse -- as they discover the sparkling humor of a holiday favorite.
Sabuda remains a master of the medium, constructing a series of varied and well-engineered scenes: Santa pops in and out of the chimney, beds fold out, a window shade rises and falls, and, in a clever nod to Moore's not-a-creature-was-stirring text, it's a family of mice who are receiving Santa's nighttime visit. A pull-out tab even lets readers interact, when Santa's sleigh glides out on the clouds and over an intricately realized village. It's hard to pick a favorite scene here, but you can bet that kids will love the book's pop de résistance, in which Santa's lead reindeer nearly fly right up your nose (if they don't knock you out of your chair first).
The book's first-rate production and lively pop-ups are enough to recommend it, but Sabuda goes one better by showing the thoughtful restraint to make most of the pop-ups almost entirely white. A few accents of color catch your eye (Santa's red suit and silver pipe), but--as befits such a dynamic book--the visual focus stays on the action. (All ages) --Paul Hughes