Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Clement C. Moore Kirkus Star


by Clement C. Moore ; illustrated by Loren Long

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-06-286946-3
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A visual treatment of an old poem that’s both nostalgic and fresh.

The cover art focuses on St. Nick driving his airborne sleigh against the full moon. Flying reindeer pulling the sleigh break the cover’s right edge, leading into the book. The illustrations’ soft style establishes an old-fashioned look. Long’s central artistic conceit is revealed at the bottom of the picture, where he establishes four settings that Santa visits: a cityscape, a farm, a trailer park, and a palm-tree–dotted neighborhood. It’s refreshing to see artistic acknowledgement of Christmastime outside of snowy, rural, Rockwellian settings, and the endpapers show characters to be as diverse as their homes: an interracial sibling pair decorates a tree; a child who appears Black drafts a letter to Santa; two brown-skinned children draw a large fireplace scene; and three White-appearing children, one using a wheelchair, make cookies. The “right jolly old elf” himself is decidedly elfin, with a diminutive stature, and presents White with a ruddy complexion. In keeping with other versions, parents are depicted as the “I” of the text, and Long maintains his commitment to inclusion and diversity in their characterization as he switches among settings to show them encountering Santa. These shifts don’t follow a rigid sequence, and seasonal details in décor (several crèche scenes, stockings, trees, and even a menorah on the mantelpiece in the evidently bicultural urban home) offer additional visual interest.

Bring this one ho-ho-home.

(Picture book. 2-7)