There's no denying the magic of the Christmas season is in the air. If you stop and step aside from all the hustle and bustle and look around you, you will see it. It's there in the person holding the door for someone whose arms are full of packages. You can hear it in the carol being whistled softly by a shopper. The aroma of fresh cut evergreens fills local nurseries. Sipping a cup of peppermint hot chocolate brings forth memories of past holiday gatherings. As some ornaments, decades old, are hung on the tree, you can close your eyes and recall the exact moment you first saw them, simply by touch.
There are stories attached to Christmas tree ornaments; a gift from a student, a symbol of a beloved book, or in memory of a cherished companion. The Broken Ornament (Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, September 18, 2018) written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi is about the search for a special Christmas. You never know where you will find it or who will help you.
JACK WANTED THIS TO BE THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.
"I want more decorations," he said. "That way Santa will see our house first."
Jack is a firm believer in more and bigger equals better than best. Despite everything in his household ready to celebrate Christmas Eve, Jack still feels there is one more thing to do. He leaves the decorated tree and races back into the room holding a box with a single ornament inside. His mother calls out. Jack's determination causes a lapse in hearing.
The ornament drops to the floor shattering. Heartbroken his mother runs upstairs crying. His father follows with a box of tissues. Peering into the pieces Jack sees a shadow emerge. It's a fairy named Tinsel. Asked what he desires, Jack says
"I want the best Christmas ever!"
Tinsel springs into action. Tossed glitter becomes snowflakes. Mistletoe berries falling to the floor sprout into huge evergreens. Jack's living room is now a winter wonderland. Whenever the sprite's bells jingle more Christmas cheer enters Jack's house. It's still not enough. Jack has one more wish.
Tinsel cannot grant this request. She cannot repair the broken ornament.
Given a gingerbread house glowing with an inner light, Jack gazes through a miniature window. The scene he sees fills his mind and heart with understanding. There is only one person who can make this the best Christmas ever. It needs to be made with and for love.
As Jack and his parents are introduced to us, it's easy to catch his excitement for making this Christmas one to remember. With each one of his expressed desires Tony DiTerlizzi is indeed leading readers toward the disaster but also toward a far larger discovery. Each sentence and each verbal exchange between the characters is a careful blend providing excellent pacing. Readers will smile at the terms of endearment Tinsel uses when addressing Jack. Here is a passage.
"Are you my fairy godmother?" Jack asked.
A bubbly voice replied, "Godmother? Oh, no, they don't trust me with a wand.
Call me Tinsel."
"So . . . do you grant wishes?" Jack leaned in close.
Framed in red foil the front (right) and back (left) of the opened dust jacket gives readers a glimpse of Jack's Christmas extravaganza inside his home. Tinsel zips from the broken ornament as Jack watches in wonder. The title text is raised and varnished. Tinsel's frozen trail is also varnished. On the back we move closer to the Christmas tree heavily covered in snow. Two lines from the story are varnished in white.
The book case is a shimmer of white on the front and the back with a dusting of pale blue on the edges. Five specific ornaments hang on the back. On the front the broken ornament lays beneath the title text. Tinsel is flying off the image in the upper, right-hand corner.
The opening and closing endpapers look like green wrapping paper patterned in an array of various ornaments colored in red, yellow, blue, white and green. On the title page five houses covered in snow and ice line the street and create a peaceful scene under the text.
colored pencil and Acryla gouache on Bristol board with additional effects (were) achieved through fairy magic,
the illustrations supply warmth and a bit of nostalgia. Tony DiTerlizzi alters their size to coincide with his masterful pacing. Some are full page, small insets with text or marvelous, wordless double-page pictures. Several of the visuals extend over the gutter providing a column for text. For a very specific depiction the entire background is white.
The point of view provides emphasis on moments in the story, bringing us near to the characters or giving us a breathtaking view of the action. Humor is found in many of the images; the looks on the snowmen's faces and a reindeer enjoying a candy cane. The tag on Jack's pajama top is outside. And the extra snowman in one of the pictures looks familiar. The final illustration on the dedication page will have readers cheering.
One of my many favorite pictures is when we meet Tinsel. A full page is dedicated to her. We move in close to within the branches of the Christmas tree. Colorful ornaments and lights surround her. She stands on a red ornament. Her larger, pointed ears stick out from her red hair. A crown with snowflakes adorns her head. Around the bottom of her dress is a layer of white. Her tights are candy-cane stripped. Bells are attached to her ankles. She is beauty and joy all rolled into a single being.
The Broken Ornament with words and pictures by Tony DiTerlizzi is certain to be a Christmas classic. Readers will ask for it to be read repeatedly. It's guaranteed everyone who reads this story will be looking for a Christmas fairy every time an ornament is broken. I know you will want a copy of this title for your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Tony DiTerlizzi please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. Tony maintains an account on Twitter and Instagram. You'll enjoy seeing a lot of his process artwork. The cover of this book is revealed at Watch. Connect. Read., the site of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher. You can view interior images at the publisher's website.