I have very vivid memories of sitting in the kitchen while my Mom was cooking dinner, reading a Golden Books version of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more commonly referred to as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. The verse is credited to Clement Clarke Moore, although there is evidence to suggest that Henry Livingston, Jr. is the author.
There have been lots of authors who use the original rhyme scheme to tell a similar story … but with different characters or set in different locations.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
~ Charles Caleb Colton
Maybe it is because authors are trying to capitalize on the familiar tale and the ready-made rhyming structure that we see so many different versions of Moore’s quintessential poem. It also sets the bar on a reader’s expectations. Speaking for myself, I don’t want a thinly veiled rewrite. I am looking for a story that resembles the original but that stands on its own merit. I also want to read the rhymes with the same comfort of Moore’s poem. If there are hiccups or the words are forced, it won’t work.
Some of the versions don’t stay within the Christmas season … but since we ARE getting ready for Christmas, I am going to offer mini-reviews of some of the holiday renditions.
Summary: It is Christmas Eve, and instead of being home with his family, a police officer is on duty. There are a few calls, but nomany, so he goes to a diner to get something to eat. While there, Sergeant Kringle shows up and tells the officer to go home. As he drives his helicopter out of sight, Kringle warns all bad guys to beware. The reading level is 2.7, and with thee rhyme it is accessible to young readers.
Book Talk: Like the original story, this one is told in first person. Most of us don’t think about people still working while we’re enjoying the holidays with our families, and this is a nice reminder. I thought Kringle Cop took away from the story, though. Children of police officers and kids who love or are learning about community helpers will enjoy this book. The rhyme wasn’t perfect, but it worked.
Summary: Anxious to start filling their coffers for the new year, the attorneys who comprise the practice of Bluff, Bluster, and Blunder know they have struck it rich with the plight of one Polly Brown, who slipped and fell on a toy while shopping at the mall.
Book Talk: The “juvenile” on the back cover does not mean young readers. This is an over-the-top parody of practicing law. The only thing stirring are the lawyers, not a mouse, no Santa, no Christmas cheer. The poem is filled with terminology common in the legal profession. In addition, some of the references are not suitable for your typical picture book audience. This would be a fun gift for law students and lawyers.
Summary: Do pirates get Christmas treasure? Yes. So who delivers it? No, it’s not Santa. Ahoy, it is Sir Peggedy and his eight trusty seahorses.
Book Talk: This sea-worthy rendition is probably the most clever re-modeling of the classic that I’ve ever seen. The descriptions of the pirates and events are vivid and brought to life in wonderful colorful. There is pirate jargon galore and the glossary in the back is a riot. So not only is it fun, you learn something, too. I also like that it has a 1.9 reading level (Flesch-Kincaid), which makes it accessible to young readers.
Do you have a favorite riff on the original?
Head on over to jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. Jama is cooking up the Poetry Friday roundup this week.