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  • Writer's picturePicture Book Snob

Mad Hatters and Mistletoe

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland by Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley

"It's a quick trip by rabbit hole, AGES by sleigh." Santa delivers an overdue present to the Queen of Hearts in this inventive adventure with extraordinary illustrations and laugh-out-loud moments. A whirlwind of activity and just the right amount of absurdity, this is a fabulous homage to Lewis Carroll and The Night Before Christmas. Festive, fun and incredibly eye-catching, with lots of amusing details in the intricate and colourful images.

Those familiar with Alice in Wonderland will enjoy spotting creatures, words and items from that realm that make an appearance here (including a shrinking Alice). You don't need to know the original story to enjoy this, however, my three and five-year-olds LOVE it despite many references going over their head. I can't believe this is Carys Bexington's first book, it's an exceptionally clever and comic story that rhymes the whole way through.

Kate Hindley's magnificent artwork complements the text perfectly. I am a HUGE fan of Kate, who also illustrated one of my favourite books of 2020, The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser, and all of her work is stunning. Kate excels at facial expressions and those of the elves and reindeer are particularly entertaining and I love the Cheshire Cat too. The Queen of Hearts is priceless and looks delightfully menacing and mischievous. It's hilarious to see her storming about or in fierce concentration with her tongue sticking out.

There are several magical scenes showing Santa and his sleigh flying, and Wonderland is brilliantly brought to life in all its fantastic flamboyance. The Queen of Hearts' castle is intriguing, with gorgeous art-deco elements, and I'd love to jump inside the book and (cautiously) explore it. Even though John Tenniel's work is beautiful and the prototype for Alice in Wonderland, I'd love to see a new edition illustrated by Kate.

There are so many brilliant characters in this story, especially the reindeer who try to reason with Santa when he announces the trip to Wonderland. Prancer isn't afraid of the tyrannical queen and one of my favourite parts is when he stands up to her. Despite all its splendid silliness, there's a powerful message about showing compassion and giving people a second chance. We're poignantly reminded by Vixen that the first rule of Christmas is to "be kind."

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland is one of the best festive stories I've read and also one of the most accomplished picture books I've ever seen. It's not hard to see why it was selected as one of the Sunday Times Best Books of the Year in 2019. This is a spin-off that Lewis Carroll would approve of, and possibly even wish he had written himself.

Author: Carys Bexington Illustrator: Kate Hindley Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books Publication Date: October 2019 ISBN: 9781509882212


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