A Child's Christmas in Wales (with woodcuts by Ellen Raskin)

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In print for over forty years, this gem of lyric prose has enchanted both young and old and is now a modern classic.

The classic "little blue edition" with matching mailing envelope to send as a holiday gift. Dylan Thomas, one of the greatest poets and storytellers of the twentieth century, captures a child's-eye view, and an adult's fond remembrance, of a magical time of ...
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A Child's Christmas in Wales

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Overview

In print for over forty years, this gem of lyric prose has enchanted both young and old and is now a modern classic.

The classic "little blue edition" with matching mailing envelope to send as a holiday gift. Dylan Thomas, one of the greatest poets and storytellers of the twentieth century, captures a child's-eye view, and an adult's fond remembrance, of a magical time of presents, aunts and uncles, the frozen sea, and, in the best of circumstances, newly fallen snow—its wonder, silence, and snowball mischief.

This edition published by New Directions is the most popular format of A Child's Christmas in Wales—a booklet size that can be mailed in an accompanying envelope.

A Welsh poet recalls the celebration of Christmas in Wales and the feelings it evoked in him as a child.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Thomas's Christmas classic takes a back seat only to Dickens's story about the old tightwad who learns the error of his ways overnight. This charming edition is roughly 5.25" square and features a number of woodcut illustrations by Ellen Raskin. This beauty would be perfect to include in a display for the holidays (they'll be here before you know it). Buy a bunch of them. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811215602
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/1/2006
  • Series: New Directions Paperbook Series
  • Edition description: GIFT
  • Pages: 32
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 4.66 (h) x 2.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Most famous for his poetry, Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) also wrote captivating short-stories, a novella, several screenplays and radio plays, as well as his delightful stage play, Under Milk Wood—all infused with his passion for the English language and his enduring love of Wales.
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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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2012

    Living a CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES

    This lovely, sensitive interpretation of Dylan Thomas's poem is loyal to the original, but adds appropriate dialogue and a wonderland of touching pictures and characters. We have viewed it for the first time and are drawn into the film at every new frame. It seems just right for all ages and makes one quite nostalgic for the days of our youth and those special times with family and friends when small towns and simple acts meant love was every where around us. We recommend it.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2006

    A beautiful story, beautifully illustrated by Hyman

    'A Child's Christmas in Wales' is a timeless story, that seems to isolate a single Christmas in the life of a boy living in an ideal, and sadly, a forgotten age. Thomas perfectly evokes the child-like simplicity of the boy's perceptions with artful poetry, and captures the spirit of the boy's youthful dialogue amongst each other. Further, Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations in this edition integrate seamlessly with the mood of the words. Hyman's work far outstrips the illustrations in other editions of 'Christmas in Wales' that I've perused.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2006

    Pure poetry

    I have the 1985 book of A Child's Christmas in Wales and it, with its wonderful illustrations, is my favorite. Read it aloud as a gift to yourself during the Christmas season. Then, read it to a child or a grandchild or to anyone who will listen. Finally, buy at least ten copies and give to friends! Great Christmas gift.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2014

    Truly awful illustrations. I'm taking this back. The story is ly

    Truly awful illustrations. I'm taking this back. The story is lyrical, but is ruined by the pictures.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013

    This is a very poor Nook adaptation. Very hard to read. 

    This is a very poor Nook adaptation. Very hard to read. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2007

    lovely and beautiful, a favorite Christmas tradition to read aloud to myself.

    My sister gave me this book and the video 'now on DVD' a few years ago. I love it more each year. It is the most wonderful account to read aloud and take you somewhere far away and glorious that you wish you could go...even for a few minutes.

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