978-0-15-205640-7 / 9780152056407

'Twas the Fright Before Christmas


Publisher:HMH Books for Young Readers



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About the book:

Judy Sierra and illustrator Will Hillenbrand (The House That Drac Built, Counting Crocodiles) trick us with a treat: the deliciously Halloweeny Christmas book 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas. In this rhyming yuletide treasure, Santa is a mouse, and his sleigh is pulled through the night sky by the cutest bats on the planet. The stage is set: "'Twas a midwinter eve / at the old haunted house. / Not a creature was stirring... / Well, maybe a mouse." The story continues, "The dragon had fallen asleep on the stair. / The manticore snoozed in his favorite chair. / In a pot by the fireplace the fiend's stew was steaming. / Beside it the bat dangled upside down, dreaming." Somehow this talented team manages to conjure a holiday season that is creepy but utterly cozy-a mummy clutches his Christmas list as an old zombie dozes on the divan. Meanwhile, the illustrations reveal what the text does not. Here comes Santa Mouse, dragging many times his weight in presents! Conflict erupts when the manticore is scratched by the cat and then mangles the tail of the werewolf, who awakes with a howl, etc. etc. Of course the cat is squashed by the zombie, who's responding to the bat, who's struck by the fiend: "'It wasn't my fault!' protested the bat. / 'The fiend flung his spoon and it hit me----ker-splat! / You'd flip and flap, too, if it happened to you.'" Amidst all the chaos, sharp eyes will spot the quiet antics of Santa Mouse, desperately trying to fulfill holiday obligations. Santa Mouse finally comes to the fore when he reads them a sweet bedtime story ("Make it gruesome and gory," says the bat), serves them cocoa with marshmallow sauce ("'Top it off,' yipped the werewolf, 'with mildew and moss.'"), calms the monsters down, and flies away to deliver more Christmas cheer. (Ages 3 to 7) --Karin Snelson

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