Archive for December 28th, 2009

The Night After Christmas by James Stevenson. Greenwillow Books 1981.

Everyone knows The Night Before Christmas, but do you know about the night after Christmas? James Stevenson’s charming picture book tells the story of Annie, a doll, and Teddy, a teddy bear, who find themselves on the curb with the garbage the night after Christmas. Teddy says “The kid who owned me got a space gun for Christmas.” Annie says “The kid I belonged to got a doll with hair you can curl and clothes you can change plus a bikini.” As they discuss their situation, a big brown dog tells them “A word to the wise. They collect the garbage here first thing in the morning.” Annie and Teddy hitch a ride on Chauncey the dog, who takes them back to his basement room. Annie and Teddy are safe staying with Chauncey, but they can’t be happy without a child of their own. Then Chauncey has an idea. He takes Annie and Teddy with him and places them outside a big building. A bell rings and children flood out the doors in a tumbling rush. When all the children are gone, Annie and Teddy are gone, too.

James Stevenson is best known for his Grandpa stories, especially Could be Worse! If you have youngsters to read to, Stevenson’s charming picture books are worth looking up.

Mr. Corbett’s Ghost by Leon Garfield. Puffin 1969.

A windy night and the old year dying of an ague. Good riddance! A bad old year, with a mean spring, a poor summer, a bitter autumn – and now this cold, shivering ague. No one was sorry to see it go.

Garfield’s story is to New Year’s Eve what Dicken’s Christmas Carol is to Christmas, a spooky story of redemption and second chances. Young Ben Partridge, an apothecary’s apprentice, is anxious to be off. It’s New Year’s Eve, but still Mr. Corbett, his master, won’t let him leave. He finds one trifling job after another until poor Ben could scream with frustration. Finally, he sends Ben far out of his way to deliver a package to a strange customer who arrives at the shop late in the evening. Ben is furious, and when the chance to make a deal with Death is offered up, Ben signs away a quarter of his future earnings for the satisfaction of being rid of Mr. Corbett forever! Death keeps his end of the bargain, but Mr. Corbett, while dead, isn’t exactly gone…

Garfield is a master storyteller. His tale of how Ben is changed forever deserves to be better-known.

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