Until 1823, most children outside Holland and Germany didn't even know who Santa was. That Christmas, a New York newspaper printed an anonymous poem entitled "An Account of a Visit from St Nicholas." This was the first time American children had heard of Santa Claus. Wondering what might happen if they hung their stockings by the chimney, many children did, and were greeted by an array of treats. News of this incredible phenomenon spread quickly. Soon the poem was reprinted all over the world, and Santa Claus has been a very busy man ever since...
Whose tiny faces are peeking out from Santa's golden sleigh? Yikes! It's two of Santa's elves who are Christmas Eve stowaways. Beloved illustrator Jan Brett's version of The Night Before Christmas lets these two mischievous elves add their rambunctious spirit to this familiar 1823 rhyming story. Here, Santa and his reindeer land on the snowy roof of a Victorian mansion in New England. While Santa delivers the toys inside, the elves and the reindeer frolic around the lawn, as a pig (earmarked for a girl named Jan) and a few alphabet blocks spill out of sacks into the snow. Santa swiftly reins in the mischief-makers and "away they all flew like the down on a thistle." Brett's richly illustrated borders are lavishly decorated with antique toys, ornaments, and sweet treats, all surrounded with twisting golden ribbons. They also give us a window on the mansion's inhabitants, including the children watching Santa's departure in awe. A sugarplum of a Christmas story, just right for a reading before "a long winter's nap." (Click to see a sample spread. Illustrations ©1998 by Jan Brett. Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.) (Ages 3 to 6) --Marcie Bovetz