As the adult speaker of the story nods off in a comfy red chair, the Spirit of Christmas appears, ready to get the narrator in the holiday spirit. What follows is a buoyant, imagistic tribute to the season, as the Spirit lists joys both concrete (“A toy soldier band dressed in matching red sashes!”) and intangible, before offering the reminder: “Because it took nothing but love to begin it,/ it's not really Christmas if love isn't in it.” Tillman's ethereal illustrations (a frozen tree, dotted with peppermints; the cast of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” beside a river) are surreal but captivating. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
In rhymed verse the search for that special something missing in Christmas preparation leads beyond decorations, sleigh bells, a band with red sashes, candy, and caroling. There are gentle things, and silent snow, paths to Grandma's house, lords a leaping, and Santa Claus. The answer is that Christmas "began with a child. Because it took nothing but love to begin it, it's not really Christmas if love isn't in it." The missing ingredient is "you" beneath the Christmas tree. This text is followed by a silhouette of a mother and baby and snow scene of an adult and child ice-skating. Caroling is illustrated by a howling pack of wolves with a bar of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" overhead. A regal lion with a lamb and a white dove are shown for the gentle things. In various pictures a child pulls a sled, makes a snow angel, and throws a snowball. The wonderful colored illustrations convey a sense of joy and peace. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4–“I had just nodded off,/at a quarter past four,/when the Spirit of Christmas/stepped in through my door.” So begins this lovely story in which all the delights of the season are presented. Realism and fantasy are satisfyingly paired to bring the mixed-media illustrations of treasured holiday scenes to life. Many of the paintings include bits of lyrics and music from well-known carols. The message is sweet; no matter how fancy one’s decorations, no matter how elaborate one’s feast, or how many pretty packages wait beneath the tree, “It is love that makes the angels sing.” A beautiful and timeless book.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library
Bestselling author Tillman offers a dreamlike interpretation of the collective spirit that permeates the holiday. The first-person rhyming text shows the narrator (the author herself?) dozing off just as the personified Spirit enters the room. The following illustrations and text create a magical atmosphere, with a sleigh splashing through water, peppermints growing on trees and wolves howling a Christmas carol. A page representing peace shows a lion lying down with a lamb with a dove overhead, and another page shows a flock of sheep under the Christmas star with a textual reference to the baby of the season. This mysterious approach concludes with the narrator's child viewing the Christmas tree, which to her is the best part of Christmas. The illustrations have an appealing, surrealistic quality, but the caliber of the text is uneven. (Picture book. 4-7)
From the Publisher
“Tillman (On the Night You Were Born) expertly swirls together reality and fantasy--the narrator's child delights in the sight of the decorated tree, the lion lies down with the lamb--as is fitting for such a magical night.” Shelf Awareness
“Handsomely illustrated, this Christmas book is bound to be hyped as the perfect seasonal gift. …Tillman's sentimental sensibility and beautiful artwork ensure that this will become a popular choice at holiday time.” Booklist
“A beautiful and timeless book.” School Library Journal
“As the adult speaker of the story nods off in a comfy red chair, the Spirit of Christmas appears, ready to get the narrator in the holiday spirit. What follows is a buoyant, imagistic tribute to the season, as the Spirit lists joys both and intangible, before offering the reminder: ‘Because it took nothing but love to begin it,/ it's not really Christmas if love isn't in it.' Tillman's ethereal illustrations are surreal but captivating.” Publishers Weekly
“Bestselling author Tillman offers a dreamlike interpretation of the collective spirit that permeates the holiday.” Kirkus Reviews
“The wonderful colored illustrations convey a sense of joy and peace.” Children's Literature
“This is one of those rare baby books that should make both skeptics and sentimentalists of all ages happy.” Publishers Weekly on On the Night You Were Born
“A beautiful tribute to the uniqueness of every child.” Kirkus Reviews on On the Night You Were Born
“Many parents will welcome this opportunity to tell their children how special and loved they are.” Booklist on On the Night You Were Born
Read an Excerpt
I had just nodded off,
at a quarter past four,
when the Spirit of Christmas
stepped in through my door.
With a great show of sparkles,
he decked all my halls in tinsel and
twinkles and bright, shining balls...
I was really quite fond
of the trimmings he'd brought.
"But there's just something missing
this Christmas," I thought.