A nostalgic look at Christmas past
Tomie dePaola's new book, Christmas Remembered, is billed as the renowned illustrator's first work for all ages. In 15 short chapters he describes his favorite holiday memories, starting in 1937 when he was three years old and his parents installed a fake, plug-in fireplace in their Connecticut apartment. He describes his utter delight at the art supplies Santa brings him in 1945, when he's 11, and his family's first television set that his father won in 1947. In fact, it was one of only two TVs in town at the time the other was at the RCA dealership. Perfect strangers flood into the dePaola home to watch a fight featuring champ Joe Louis. Tomie's mother proclaims that their lovely house has been ruined by the ugly antennae mounted on their roof.
DePaola offers many such fascinating glimpses of his Christmases over the years. In 1956 he became a novice at a Vermont order of Benedictine monks, and he describes a beautiful celebration in a Spartan place of little heat. Later, in San Francisco in 1967, he throws a big party and fills his apartment with 80 little trees, creating Tomie's forest. DePaola was famous among his friends for his lavish after-Christmas parties, and finally he becomes exhausted by how the parties have grown. He travels for a few holidays and then settles back into a more quiet routine at home. The final chapter describes a low-key holiday at his New Hampshire farmhouse, where he is entertaining some friends and two little boys from Australia. When it comes time for the boys to make snow angels after much anticipation and preparation they want nothing to do with the stuff. No one had told them that snow was cold!
These short snapshots will amuse young and old alike and can serve as a good vehicle to start family conversations about everyone's favorite holidays through the years. A note at the start warns that his family's holiday traditions include considerable imbibing of spirits, but adults should feel free to edit out these references when sharing the stories with children.
Of course, no Tomie dePaola book would be complete without his splendid artwork, and this book is chock-full!