Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Down On The Farm

Mother Nature has frosted our landscape these past few weeks as if it's her own personal Christmas cake.  Animal tracks pattern the lawns, sidewalks, paths and roadways in the early morning hours like silver dragees.  After dark homes and nearby bushes and trees outlined with white or colored lights add to the festive atmosphere.

For nearly three hundred, sixty-five days children around the world have been waiting to welcome Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nick or Santa Claus while others emulate his spirit as in the reply to a child's letter in 1897, Is There A Santa Claus?  Christmas wishes have been made.  Trees have been trimmed.  Stockings have been hung.  Treats have been left for the visitor about to arrive.

And Duck is up to his old tricks.  Duck?!   Yes, the crew of critters making their home on Farmer Brown's acreage is back in a rollicking read, Click, clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing Division, September 22, 2015) written by Doreen Cronin with illustrations by Betsy Lewin.

Snow is falling.
Lights twinkle.
A few creatures are stirring.
It is Christmas Eve.

Farmer Brown pauses in his holiday preparations to listen to a new noise.  It sounds like Santa Claus is getting closer to his home.  What is Duck doing with spiked sandals, goggles, a rope and backpack?

Hush now!  What's that?  He's getting closer.  Or is he?  Oh, no Duck!  There's something on the roof now.  As Farmer Brown finishes and rushes to bed Duck sneaks at peak at the Christmas Eve sky.  A silhouette crosses the moon.

Of all the unfortunate luck, Duck is stuck.  Yes, the wily fowl has foiled his own plan. First one, then another, and then another get stuck.  That chimney is full of farm friends.  A jolly gentleman and his flying eight wait.


Happily Christmas magic is in the air and so is a lot of soot.  Not a word is heard as they complete their task.  It's a night of good will toward one man as another leaves with new gear.

Three or four phrases grouped together start this tale of an impending approach.  Doreen Cronin by first focusing on Farmer Brown lulls us into believing one thing with her seasonal celebratory sentences.  As our attention is shifted to Duck and company with repetitive words,

HO! HO! Uh-oh.

the first of several plot twists comes as a total surprise.

When readers initially glance at the matching dust jacket and book case, greeted by a wintry scene, a bit of Christmas cheer with Duck front and center, we're not quite sure if Duck is going to be up to his old tricks or not.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of joyful green, Duck is lifting the newcomer from Click, Clack, Peep!   I won't reveal any more because it does foreshadow one of the plot twists.  The same joyful hue is found on the opening endpapers with a jolly red on the closing endpapers.  A two page visual spans the verso and title pages with Santa-hat-wearing mice (three) dancing among the title text coming from the chimney top.

The major of the images rendered in watercolor by Betsy Lewin extend edge to edge across two pages.  You can't help but chuckle at her wordless pictures placed between the initial narrative sections before Duck gets stuck.  You will burst out laughing at the body positions and expressions on the other animals as they journey to help Duck and find themselves in the same predicament.

Careful readers will enjoy watching the antics of the three mice.  We know what they know but Farmer Brown has no clue as to the real source of the noises.  The tiny details throughout are telling stories too.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is the first wordless two pages.  On the left Duck, looking every bit like a mountain climber, is making his way up a utility pole.  A large rope extends from the top of the pole to the roof of Farmer Brown's house smaller in the distance on the right.  Numerous questions immediately come to mind along with giggles.

If you are looking for a new Christmas title loaded with catchy comedy and several surprises, Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! written by Doreen Cronin with illustrations by Betsy Lewin is the book for you.  I had the distinct pleasure to read this to a group of kindergarten students last week on Friday.  I wish you could have heard the laughter and gasps.  Please add this title to your holiday collection and read it often.

By following the links attached to Doreen Cronin's and Betsy Lewin's names you can access their respective websites to learn more about them and their other work.  In addition to the front dust jacket and book case picture, the publisher's website has six more interior illustrations including my favorite. There are two separate links to printable pages of activities.  Have fun and Merry Christmas!


  1. Replies
    1. I know Catherine. I might be one of my favorites in the series.