I’m not enough of a wordsmith to describe just how elated I was when I discovered this book – the last festive loft treasure I’m sharing this week – among the boxes in Dad’s loft. This book, beyond all the others I owned, epitomised Christmas for me (dare I say it, even more so than ‘The Night Before Christmas’, though in later life I’ve acquired three or four beautifully illustrated versions of that poem) and just seeing the front cover again transported more effectively back to my childhood Christmases than almost anything else.
Jan Pieńkowski’s silhouetted images, against backgrounds that seem to glow with their own internal light, make the pictures seem alive and virtually three-dimensional. Added to this, I remember feeling incredibly grown-up to have a book where the first letter on each page was much larger than all the rest and was decorated (a quick (and therefore potentially inaccurate) internet search tells me that this is called an initial, though it doesn’t seem right than something so special doesn’t have a more thrilling name…) as I thought that only the really special books were considered worthy of such attention to detail.
The text itself is taken from the King James Version of the Bible and therefore features a few words with which I probably wasn’t familiar as a young child. However, as mentioned in my post about ‘The Friendly Beasts’ by Tomie dePaola, I probably didn’t need to read all the words of the Nativity story in order to understand what the illustrations were showing and therefore I don’t recall it dampening my enthusiasm for this book in the slightest. It also meant that the book had more to offer as I got older as well, allowing me to marry the text with the illustrations more effectively.
My witterings can’t really do justice to this utterly entrancing edition, so I’ll just post a few more spreads for you to drool over!
On a very brief sojourn into Waterstone’s last weekend, I think I spotted a version of this book that’s been rereleased. If that’s the case, and if you have anything left in the coffers after all the Christmas spending, I would urge you to seek out this book and add it to your collection (and maybe even to your own future loft treasures!).