Quote of the Month

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like . . . 2019 #7

The anticipation in the air at the beginning of December has increased daily as the hours seem to speed by faster and faster.  Some of the dates planned and longed for have arrived.  For those celebrating Christmas, there is less than forty-eight hours until it officially begins.  Social media is brimming with people sharing their cooking, decorating, gift wrapping, travels and fun with family and friends.

Three characters from the woodlands who have brought us thoughtful stories and loads of laughter are together again.  One Wild Christmas (Kids Can Press, September 3, 2019) written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland features the bear, the moose and the beaver who previously appeared in Big Bear Hug, Making The Moose Out Of Life, The Busy Beaver, Up The Creek and Walk On The Wild Side.  As we have come to expect, there is a problem, a big problem.

There was once a bear, a moose and a beaver whose very favorite time of year was Christmas.

Together for their first Christmas Eve, they were busy, making the most of their time.  There was cooking, hanging of stockings, stringing lights and gift wrapping.  They wanted this to be a perfect celebration.

When it came time to decorate the tree, they discovered they had no tree!  The trio set off outside.  Each tree they found did not satisfy their expectations until alone in a clearing was a splendidly shaped pine tree.  Now the friends were faced with their second problem.  

The beaver and moose wanted to cut it down.  The bear was aghast.  How could they destroy a living thing?!  There was a fight, but it did not last long.  Bear was the biggest of the three.  The tree was spared but their perfect celebration was currently flawed.

An idea courtesy of a tiny red presence in these books had the bear swiftly returning home on his red sled.  It was a rather difficult journey there and back to the pine tree, but the bear was determined.  As soon as the moose and the beaver (tied to the pine tree) saw their friend, they knew this was going to be the best Christmas any of them had ever experienced.  And it was.

The straightforward, simple structure of the sentences in this narrative speak to a wide range of readers.  Nicholas Oldland leaves plenty of room for us to bring our own life events into this story.  It's a marvelous manner in which to connect with the characters.  This technique also allows for his images to expand the tale, for the inclusion of dialogue and for his humor to soar.  Here is a passage.

First they came across
a maple tree . . .

TOO SMALL (the moose)

Next they saw
a birch tree . . .

TOO WHITE (the beaver)

Then they bumped into a towering
cedar tree . . .

TOO BIG (the bear)

None were quite right.

Looking at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, readers first focus on the airborne red sled with our three characters holding on tight to each other and the sled rope.  It's amazing to see the range of emotions in their eyes.  Is that excitement, fear and determination?  This entire scene certainly adds emphasis to the word wild in the title.

To the left, on the back, the image from the front crosses over the spine and extends to the left edge.  The snowy hill begins in the upper, left-hand corner and is dotted with several clusters of evergreen trees.  When you see how steep it is, it's easy to understand how the trio is speeding down the slope.

A lovely spring green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the initial title page, the three friends, wearing their Santa hats, are engaged in a snowball fight.  On the verso and title pages, two snowy hills create a blue-sky valley for the text on the right.

Rendered in Photoshop the illustrations by Nicholas Oldland span two pages, are grouped together to show multiple tasks at the same time or are placed on single pages.  Both the double-page pictures and the full-page pictures are shown with altered perspectives to elevate the mood and the hilarity.  Careful readers will enjoy the details included in the images. Our favorite little red bird makes an appearance, too.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is the first one, a double-page picture.  It is an outdoor setting with snow on the bottom, blue sky on the top and a staggered row of evergreens between the two.  On the left, the beaver, the moose and the bear are standing together, wearing their Santa hats, and looking directly at the reader.  They have their arms around each other.  To the right are three snow personalities.  First is the bear, next the beaver and then the moose. The nose on the bear, the teeth on the beaver and the antlers on the moose are spot-on to their living counterparts.  You simply can't look at this without smiling or giggling.

Anytime a book makes you laugh, tells a good story and leaves you thinking about a profound truth, it's a book you'll read again.  One Wild Christmas written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland is meant to be read aloud and shared as often as possible.  This is one title you'll want to add to your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Nicholas Oldland and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access the information provided by his publisher.  At the publisher's website you can view multiple interior pages.  Be prepared for Christmas cheer.

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