Today’s book review is for The Visit: The Origin of “The Night Before Christmas”, written by Mark Kimball Moulton, illustrated by Susan Winget, published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
The Visit is a magical new holiday book that details the history of the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas,” which was written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. This history was passed down through the generations and shared with the author by Moore’s great-great-granddaughter, Dinghy Sharp. It’s a lovely work of family history, literary history and holiday magic woven together in a volume that will surely become a Christmas treasure.
Moulton does an excellent job sharing all of this information. Not only does he pull it all together into a compelling narrative–but he does so in the same rhyming verse style of the original poem. There were a couple of places where the meter was slightly off, but it wasn’t too distracting. He structures the story so that the first portion is told from young Dinghy’s perspective. He really captures the wonder and magic of visiting New York City, for the first time, at Christmastime. Then, Dinghy’s grandfather takes over to explain to his grandchildren the strange words and unfamiliar actions that happen in “The Night Before Christmas”–from hanging stockings to the making of sugar-plums. In the third section, he tells the story of why Moore wrote it, and how he came up with the idea. This structure was so engaging. I loved how it kept drawing the reader further back in time.
Winget’s illustrations are the perfect companion to the piece. They have this beautiful antique feel to them. The colors are muted: burgundy reds, forest greens, parchment yellows, and crockery white. Yet every image is full of beauty and captures that classic Christmas feel. There’s a soft fuzziness that gives the feeling of looking back through the mists of time. There’s rich historical detail. I think that the illustrations alone will motivate many people to buy this book.
My favorite part, though, is the very end. That’s because a copy of the original poem, in Moore’s own handwriting, is included. The old cursive may be a challenge for some to read, but how wonderful to see it in the author’s own hand! (It can even be used to give older children a history lesson on “primary source documents”.) The book was very thoughtfully executed. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. If anyone has been looking for the perfect Christmas book to gift to a kid, look no further.
You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.