A Vintage Character Christmas
Two more days until Christmas! It doesn't seem possible! It feels like I just wrapped up my crazy month of Halloween posts. So here I go, cramming as many goodies into one post as possible.
I dug through the card catalog - er, plumbed the depths of the online catalog - to find as many vintage Christmas books as possible. Here are a few wonderful books featuring favorite picture book characters that have been around a while. Only two of these books are currently out-of-print, as far as I can tell.
Madeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans.
Orig. published in a McCall's magazine insert, 1956.
Current reprint: Viking, 1985.
I love Madeline. She is one of my favorite characters. That said, Madeline's Christmas is a strange one. Everyone in the old house in Paris is sick, except for Madeline. She is taking care of everyone, when a rug salesman appears at the door. She buys all the rugs to warm her charges. The salesman returns, frozen to the bone, intending to get his rugs back. Instead, Madeline takes him in and warms him up. Out of gratitude, the salesman, who is also a magician, turns all the rugs into flying carpets, and all the little girls fly around. Merry Christmas!
Random House, 1940; reprint edition, 2001.
This is one from my personal collection. The elephant children learn about Father Christmas and his gifts to humans. They ask Babar if Father Christmas couldn't come visit the elephants, too. Babar sets off in search of Father Christmas. He is finally found by the "dwarves" (elves), half-frozen in the snow. Father Christmas and his dwarves warm him up, then Babar discusses his reason for coming. After a tour of Father Christmas's home and workplace, which is actually underground, Babar invites the man back to the Elephants' Country for a vacation. Father Christmas gives Babar his own magic suit, and promises to visit the Elephants' Country again.
Orig. published by Harper & Brothers, 1960.
Reprint by Phaidon, 2011.
I love this one. Mr. Mellops tells his four boys about Christmas decor, and all five decide to surprise the household with a Christmas tree. No one needs five trees, so the boys set off to find someone who needs a tree. The orphanage, hospital, and prison are supplied. Finally, they find a girl crying in the street. There are many poor, sick people in her house. The boys not only bring their trees to each person in the house, but they bring medicine, food, and firewood, as well. It's a lovely lesson in giving.
Orig. published by Harper & Brothers, 1956.
Most recent reprint by HarperCollins, 1998.
Harold needs a Christmas tree before Santa arrives! But first, there must be snow. And if there's snow, why not a snow man? The snow is everywhere. It looks like the North Pole. But where is Santa's house? Oh! The house is buried in snow, and Harold is on the roof! So Harold draws Santa coming up out of the chimney. He gives Santa his reindeer, a sleigh, and a bag of toys, before he remembers the tree! He finishes drawing the decorations, and falls asleep in the chair, waiting for Santa.
Orig. published by Knopf, 1952. Most recent reprint, 2004.
Oh, Petunia, I love you! My favorite goose goes for a walk, and at the next farm over, finds a gander named Charles. Charles is fenced in, being fattened up for Christmas dinner! Petunia simply must save him. She disguises herself as a monster, in order to help Charles escape. This works, but Petunia is discovered behind the disguise, and Charles is recaptured. So Petunia decides to earn money to buy Charles's freedom. When begging doesn't work, Petunia gets crafty and sells her homemade Christmas wreaths. She doesn't earn enough money, but Charles's owners are touched by their goosey love, and set Charles free. He and Petunia have a Christmas wedding. Awwwww...
illustrated by Hilary Knight.
Orig. published by Random House, 1958.
Reprint by Simon & Schuster, 1999.
OOoooooo, I just love Eloise! And Christmas. And Eloise at Christmastime. Here we see how the Plaza's most precocious resident celebrates the holiday season, skipping about the Plaza, decorating, caroling, dreaming, dancing, and doing all the usual things Eloise does. This is Hilary Knight at his best! Along the bottom of the page in tiny print is an Eloise Christmas song. By the way, did you know Kay Thompson recorded a song in her Eloise voice called, "It's Absolutely Christmastime"? It's available on a CD set called Think Pink! A Kay Thompson Party. The song can be purchased for download at Amazon. (It's noisy. Just a warning.)
First, here is Part One of an edited, shortened teleplay from the Playhouse 90 TV series, from 1956. This was Eloise's first appearance on television! (According to the recent biography on Kay Thompson, it was kind of a nightmare, all around.)
Here is Kay Thompson singing "Eloise."
And here are a couple of Christmas recordings by Kay Thompson's protegee Andy Williams, "Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells" and "Happy Holiday/Holiday Season," both arranged and partly written by Thompson.
And one last look at Kay herself.