The Mole Family’s Christmas – Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

So, I’m not quite done with Christmas yet. Equal to but perhaps not as well known as Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, is another Christmas story by Russell Hoban, The Mole Family’s Christmas. 

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The Mole Family, of course, live under the ground, in the dark. One morning when Delver Mole tunnels up to the surface and a mouse tells him Christmas is coming. But none of the family knows what that is. They say, “Perhaps it is a people thing.” But Delver just can’t let it go and not only that, he then has to find out what stars are too. That is the start of the Mole Family’s first Christmas.

I love the humour in this little story. This is the Mole Family’s letter to Santa Claus: To the man in a red suit and fat we would like a telescope we are nearsighted Thank you love the Mole Family. And I think I like the pictures in this even better than Emmet Otter. The owl is quite wonderful.

My copy has a bit of family history. A least, the ownership is not quite clear. The cover says Katie, the title page says Amy, and the first page of the story says Katie May. I’m not sure if that means she won. Curiously, the letter to Santa is always handwritten in in a blank space where the letter would have or should have been printed. So maybe my version isn’t right, but I think it fits. I wonder what happened there?

I think I am going to turn this into a Christmas concert play.

I hope you wrote your letter to the fat man in the red suit! Merry Christmas!



Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas – Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

I just can’t resist doing more Russell Hoban for Chistmas! Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas is, I think, one of my favourite picture books and one of my favourite childhood memories. I remember watching the muppet version of the story over and over again, on one of the those large discs that were for around for awhile in the eighties that movies were played on. (I have a very distinct picture in my mind but have no idea what they were called.) Only later did I realize that Emmet Otter was a book and by Hoban, no less, when it sat there staring at me a in used book store. (That is where my copy if from.) I re-discovered what a lovely story it is.

Emmet and his mother don’t have much, but they have each other. Each wants to badly to get the other a Christmas present, so unknowingly  they both end up taking a chance and entering a talent show with a fifty dollar prize. I like that it reminds us that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be thankful for what we have and enjoy each other.

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Emmet Otter’s father was dead, and his mother took in washing. There was no electricity out in Frogtown Hollow, and Mrs. Otter did her washing with a washboard and a washtub, all by hand. Emmet rowed up and down the river, from Turtle Bed to Osprey Point, picking up the laundry that Ma’s customers left on their boat landings, and he delivered it when it was done. Emmet hauled the water and he did the chores. He cut the firewood and he stacked it. He went out with the tool chest Pa had left him, and he did odd jobs around the neighborhood. Every day he went out fishing. So there was always something on the table, and between the two of them Emmet and his mother paid the rent and scraped along somehow.

This was the only Emmet I knew until a bunch of babies I know got the name. I can’t help thinking, “Emmet Otter”!  (Now I want to watch the Muppet Family Christmas.)

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed – Karla Kuskin, illustrations by Marc Simont

The title gives you a very good idea what this book is about – the members of an orchestra prepare for a performance and this includes getting dressed; also, showering, washing, drying, powdering, shaving, doing their hair, putting on underwear and socks, struggling into stockings, snapping suspenders into place, putting on earrings, tying ties, and generally making oneself presentable. It’s a children’s  picture book and it’s delightful. I think this is my favourite scene:


When they have finished washing, they dry. They use big towels and little towels and a lot of dusting powder. All the men shave except three, who have beards. Two trim. Then, when one hundred and five people are showered and bathed, shaved and toweled, dusted and dry, they put on their underwear.
When they have finished washing, they dry. They use big towels and little towels and a lot of dusting powder. All the men shave except three, who have beards. Two trim. Then, when one hundred and five people are showered and bathed, shaved and toweled, dusted and dry, they put on their underwear.

The pictures are so well done; I think they must have been based on real people, a real orchestra. You can track people from scene to scene. How does each get ready? What does each wear? You get a feel for their personalities, and eventually, if you are observant, you will be able to figure out which instrument each one plays. And when the story brings all these very different people together in the end, they make beautiful music. (Sigh. I think I can hear the first notes.) What a delightful way to learn about an orchestra.

It is such a neat perspective and the partnership of author and illustrator work so well together. Apparently, they also did The Dallas Titans Got to Bed. I want to read it too!

The Bad Speller – William Steig

Anamills perfourmng a difiklt feet.

This is one of the funniest little books I’ve ever come across. It was on book sale table at a my local library and it was too good to leave behind. Who would ever get rid of this little gem? The basic premise is bad spelling – how badly can you spell? For each picture, the captions is written in odd and peculiar ways. But that’s only the beginning of the fun. The pictures depict implausible and fantastical scenarios that are possibly even funnier than the spelling. Who would come up with these things?

I love William Steig. He lets his imagination run amok. (Sometimes it comes back to where it started, sometimes not). But to be honest, for years I didn’t know who he was or that he had, in fact, written many other books, acclaimed books. The Bad Speller was just a bizarre, entertaining, stand-alone work to me. But his illustrations are distinctive and unmistakable, so once I had read a few more of his books, I clued in to what was really sitting on my shelf.

The best part about The Bad Speller? If you read it aloud, somehow with the bad spellings it is impossible to speak in anything but a Southern accent. Try if for yourself.

Kat kampus kukn hotdaugs at a kampfyr.