CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 16 . . . . December 16, 2011
So begins Troy Townsin’s The Night Before a Canadian Christmas. As you can tell from the excerpt, Townsin has taken for his inspiration the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, originally published in 1823. Townsin uses the same basic narrative of the original poem which describes Santa Claus’s visiting a family on Christmas Eve. Townsin updates and customizes the poem by peppering the verses with many distinctly Canadian references. The parents are watching a hockey game on the CBC. Santa’s sled is led by beavers, not reindeer. The beavers’ names include Gretzky and Trudeau. Instead of cookies and milk, Santa requests a “double double”. And so on, and so on. While it was mildly diverting to read through the book once to identify all the references, there isn’t much here to warrant a second reading. Most of the references are nothing more than tired stereotypes. I cannot imagine this book appealing to Canadians, and I cannot imagine anyone else in the world wanting to read it either. While not overtly offensive, I found this book passive aggressively offensive, which is in some ways even worse. Townsin appears to have hit on his muse one too many times. His previous books include A Moose in a Maple Tree, which retells “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and “Canadian Jingle Bells which, you guessed it, takes the lyrics to “Jingle Bells” and inserts obligatory Canadian references. I would skip this one and spend time with the original poem instead.
Jennifer Harrington’s illustrations are simple and bright, but they do not seem to fit the mood and tone of the book at all. The characters’ faces are devoid of expression, and the art has a “cut and paste” quality to it that doesn’t connect with this reviewer. There is a glossy, commercial sheen on every page, which isn’t surprising, since Harrington is a graphic designer who runs a company that specializes in corporate branding.
Trevor Lockhart is a public librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.