Jay’s signature style of painting with muted, antique colors and a crackled-varnish effect is showcased exquisitely in this deceptively simple tour de force filled with tiny, hidden surprises to delight inquisitive readers.
The storyline sends a brother and sister pair creeping downstairs on Christmas Eve and venturing outside to meet Santa Claus. He whisks them off in his sleigh to the North Pole, where they sit down to supper with Mrs. Claus before touring the toy workshop. A Christmas angel flies the children back home, where the story ends on Christmas morning. Each page shows one view of a particular item or scene with just one or two words of description, and every illustration includes an element from the previous page and one from the following page. Sometimes these links are easy to spot, and sometimes difficult, such as Santa’s shadow or the holly print on wrapping paper. Cleverly hidden with the illustrations are miniature vignettes or characters from 17 holiday songs, with a key to the locations on the final page.
The Christmas season is full of magical surprises, and Jay’s absorbing creation conveys that sense of magic, from the tiny sleeping mouse on the first page to the snowman peeking in the window on Christmas morning. (Picture book. 2-7)