A Child's Christmas in Wales: With Illustrations by Chris Raschka)
  • A Child's Christmas in Wales: With Illustrations by Chris Raschka)
  • A Child's Christmas in Wales: With Illustrations by Chris Raschka)

A Child's Christmas in Wales: With Illustrations by Chris Raschka)

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by Dylan Thomas, Chris Raschka
     
 

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Fifty years after its first publication in book form, Dylan Thomas's timeless prose poem is echoed by the rolling, evocative images of Caldecott Honor artist Chris Raschka — a beautiful gift for book lovers.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. . . .

There are always Uncles at Christmas. And

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Overview

Fifty years after its first publication in book form, Dylan Thomas's timeless prose poem is echoed by the rolling, evocative images of Caldecott Honor artist Chris Raschka — a beautiful gift for book lovers.

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. . . .

There are always Uncles at Christmas. And Aunts, of course, who might sing a little loudly after dinner. There are the neighborhood cats "sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered," the carols to sing at eerie houses, the Useful Presents and the Useless Presents, and the endless snow "shawling out of the ground." First published in HARPER'S BAZAAR some fifty years ago, A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES showcases Dylan Thomas's genius for language and remains the poet's most popular prose work in the United States. Chris Raschka's fluid torn-paper illustrations honor the poet's words, evoking their musical cadences and bringing us a fresh appreciation for this most lyric work.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This beautifully illustrated A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES should bring Dylan Thomas's work to a new generation of children." —- President Jimmy Carter — A New York Times Bestseller

"This beautifully illustrated A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES should bring Dylan Thomas's work to a new generation of children." — President Jimmy Carter — President Jimmy Carter

Publishers Weekly
Poet Thomas's beloved remembrance of his childhood holidays marks its 50th anniversary with a slate of jazzy new mixed-media paintings. Shaking things up for traditionalists, Raschka delivers an interpretation via stylized images about as far from typical cold, snowy Wales as one can get. Using a consistently sturdy black line the artist emphasizes warm family scenes with golden hues and some rich, spicy color. He renders outdoor settings-yes, the seaside and snow are still here-in appropriately cool, icy blue tones. Evocative of Thomas's era in its own way, Raschka reimagines the classic for a new audience. All ages. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
For many people, Christmas just would not be Christmas without hearing this reminiscence of childhood. With Raschka's impressionistic illustrations, it takes on a fresh, new look. The torn paper and gouache drawings are in a variety of colors and tones to reflect the narrator's feelings as he describes the events. The fibers that appear on the edges of the torn paper give soft edges to these snippets of childhood remembrances. Although the waves are high and the snow is falling, there is something very inviting in the mix of blues and greens, and the way the buildings seem to come out to meet the reader in the illustration opposite the first page of text. Raschka effectively uses shades of red in the fire scenes with Mrs. Prothero, and warm shades of orange for a cozy Christmas-night scene. This abstract approach will be best appreciated by those who like to sense emotion in both the illustrations and the story. For them, it would be a wonderful gift. 2004 (orig. 1954), Candlewick Press, Ages 8 up.
—Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-Raschka's illustrations will surely enhance children's enjoyment of this nostalgic, bittersweet memoir. Executed in ink, torn paper, and gouache on sensuously textured paper, they are full of tiny details that beg for closer inspection. Some libraries may still have copies illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg (New Directions, 1997), Edward Ardizzone (Godine, 1980), or Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday, 1985). Of these earlier editions, Hyman's probably succeeds best at capturing the story's time and place. Raschka, however, finds the universal elements that a contemporary child can relate to-the eccentric aunts, the joy of pretending to smoke candy cigarettes, the classification of gifts into "Useful Presents" and "Useless Presents." This is a handsome book that most libraries will want.-V. W. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Luscious illustrations form a perfect match to the rolling language of the Christmas classic. Many could argue that the only way to experience Thomas's language is to listen to it-that illustrations cannot possibly be anything other than incidental to the dizzyingly rich language whose breathless rhythms frequently challenge the reader's lung capacity. If it is possible to illustrate these cadences adequately, then Raschka has managed to pull it off. Painted in ink and gouache on torn panels of fibrous handmade paper, the images are full of thick, sweeping lines that complement the language beautifully, the actual figures almost taking a backseat to the grand swoops of line and color. The absorbent paper blurs the lines, leading the eye to the fuzzy edges of the panels-there's not a sharp edge in here. Inside scenes are cozy, saturated in firelight yellows and oranges, sprinkled with snoozing dogs and Uncles and bosomy Aunts, while in contrast, snowy outside scenes are rendered mostly in blues, grays, and whites that are nevertheless dotted with yellow-lit windows; comfort and warmth are never far away. Gorgeous. (Memoir. 5+)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763621612
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
09/28/2004
Pages:
48
Product dimensions:
10.75(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
3 Months to 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES


By DYLAN THOMAS

A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOK

Copyright © 1954 New Directions
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0811215601


Chapter One

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the day of Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes.

The wise cats never appeared. We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows-eternal, ever since Wednesday-that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder.

"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.

"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.

"They won't be there," said Mr. Prothero, "it's Christmas."

There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr. Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though he were conducting.

"Do something," he said.

And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke-I think we missed Mr. Prothero-and ran out of the house to the telephone box.

"Let's call the police as well," Jim said.

"And the ambulance."

"And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires."

But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said: "Would you like anything to read?"

Years and years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from whitewash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely white-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards."

"Were there postmen then, too?"

"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells."

"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"

"I mean that the bells that the children could hear were inside them."

"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."

"There were church bells, too."

"Inside them?"

"No, no, no, in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence."

"Get back to the postmen."

"They were just ordinary postmen, fond of walking and dogs and Christmas and the snow. They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles...."

"Ours has got a black knocker...."

"And then they stood on the white Welcome mat in the little, drifted porches and huffed and puffed, making ghosts with their breath, and jogged from foot to foot like small boys wanting to go out."

"And then the presents?"

"And then the Presents, after the Christmas box. And the cold postman, with a rose on his button-nose, tingled down the tea-tray-slithered run of the chilly glinting hill. He went in his ice-bound boots like a man on fishmonger's slabs. He wagged his bag like a frozen camel's hump, dizzily turned the corner on one foot, and, by God, he was gone."

"Get back to the Presents."

"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all; and once I had a little crocheted nose bag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us. And pictureless books in which small boys, though warned with quotations not to, would skate on Farmer Giles' pond and did and drowned; and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why."

"Go on to the Useless Presents."

"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow; and a painting book in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea and the animals any color I pleased, and still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds.

Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh, easy for Leonardo! And a whistle to make the dogs bark to wake up the old man next door to make him beat on the wall with his stick to shake our picture off the wall. And a packet of cigarettes: you put one in your mouth and you stood at the corner of the street and you waited for hours, in vain, for an old lady to scold you for smoking a cigarette, and then with a smirk you ate it. And then it was breakfast under the balloons."

"Were there Uncles like in our house?"

"There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas mornings, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the white Post Office or by the deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddled their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES by DYLAN THOMAS Copyright © 1954 by New Directions. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"This beautifully illustrated A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES should bring Dylan Thomas's work to a new generation of children." —- President Jimmy Carter — A New York Times Bestseller

"This beautifully illustrated A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES should bring Dylan Thomas's work to a new generation of children." — President Jimmy Carter — President Jimmy Carter

Meet the Author

Dylan Thomas is lauded as one of the greatest of the twentieth-century poets. Born in Swansea, Wales, in 1914, he became a journalist at seventeen and published his controversial EIGHTEEN POEMS in 1934, which made him an overnight success. Dylan Thomas was markedly influential in his short life and produced work that remains wildly popular today, including the bitter and poignant "Do not go gentle into that good night" and the strikingly dramatic Under Milk Wood. Dylan Thomas died in 1953. A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES remains one of his best known works, and many families count a rousing reading of the poem among their favorite holiday traditions.

Chris Raschka is the illustrator of many picture books, including the concrete poetry anthology A POKE IN THE I, edited by Paul B. Janeczko, which was named a NEW YORK TIMES Best Illustrated Children's Book. He is also the author-illustrator of the Caldecott Honor Book YO! YES?, and has been hailed by PUBLISHERS WEEKLY as
"one of the most original illustrators at work today."

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A Child's Christmas in Wales: With Illustrations by Chris Raschka) 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BusyProfessional More than 1 year ago
Truly awful illustrations. I'm taking this back. The story is lyrical, but is ruined by the pictures.