Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Trolls

Christmas Trolls
Author and Illustrator: Jan Brett

Ages 4 -8

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

Awards: Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Picture Book Award ,1994.

Like so many moms buying picture books, I have a weakness for good illustrations. And yet, I had never heard of this classic or its talented author until I picked it up at a used book store, entirely for its eye catching cover. First issued in 1993, this sweet and simple story with stunning artwork from author and illustrator Jan Brett was also released under the title Trouble with Trolls.

It's nearly Christmas, and Treva and her little brother Sami are busy decorating their house. Then things begin disappearing from the house - first decorations, then presents. Early one morning, Treva looks out the door and sees the Christmas pudding running away across the snow! Intrigued, she sets out in pursuit of it, only to find something even more unexpected waiting for her at the end of the chase. Two little trolls want Christmas so badly, they have decided to steal it for themselves! How Treva then deals with the trolls, in the true spirit of Christmas, makes for a heartwarming bedtime read.

You could be excused for never noticing the text of this story, good though it is. 'Christmas Trolls' too is filled with incredibly rich and detailed illustrations, and each page is a masterpiece. Infact, author Brett is known for her meticulous research of the architecture, geography and customs of the countries she sets her stories in. There is a wealth of detail on each page in this book, with additional side panels that reveal even more of the story. See, for instance, the trolls' little hedgehog helper, scurrying around with packages, even as Treva discovers the trolls' house. And see again, Treva's reindeer Arni rearing back in surprise at the sight of that little worker! The pictures bring to life the cold Scandinavian setting of the book, with its pine trees, snow fields and traditional architectural detail. Sitting in balmy Mumbai, I could almost feel the frosty chill as Treva rode through the forest on her reindeer. Without the use of words, this lovely book offers a peep into a culture, and lifestyle so different from one's own.

I enjoy a book with a feisty femal protagonist, and the wise and gentle Treva is a treat. We see her independently driving a reindeer- drawn buggy, helping with household chores, climbing trees and handling the trolls with maturity and grace.My daughter then about four, was immediately drawn to the sheer adventure of Treva's daily life , living so close to nature, and the total absence of adults from the illustrations. The side panels also inspired us to come up with different variations to the story, exploring it from the viewpoint of its other characters (like that tireless little hedgehog, and the patient Arni). This book got us talking about the different ways people might live, dress and move around in other parts of the world, as well as the diversity of wildlife our beautiful planet offers.

Image Courtesy: Jan Brett


sathish said...


Second you. This pop too falls for the books with great illustrations.

Anther Jan Brett - very nice. Thanks for her website link, it has some awesome pencil sketches.

Have a merry Xmas.

Tharini said...

Wow! Wow! A story that allows you to explore it from the pov of other characters as well. Now that is unique! Christmas is done, but for next year, we have something handy to explore!

utbtkids said...

WJ, I was searching other Jan Brett books, looks like she has a whole spread about other traditions too. Thanks for the review.

Sheela said...

WJ, you said everything I felt when I saw this book! I particularly liked how Treva and Sami are out getting the tree home by themseleves - they can't be more than 10 and 6 or so! And you touched upon the reindeer - Jan Brett's reindeer have such unique bearing and personality - especially after Dancer and Blitzen and their friends, Arni almost seems wild yet human :)

Thanks for bringing the book to life here.

Choxbox said...

Thanks for this WJ. Will look out for this author.

Praba Ram said...

Delightful details you've offered, WJ! Welcome aboard.

Have to look for both Jan Brett's books in my LL sometime this month...Will be nice to let the holiday mood linger around a little longer, right? :-)

Choxbox said...

Aha. Another Jan Brett! This lady truly rocks! And I got all three of ours at seconds shops :)

Choxbox said...

Got this one from a used book store. Enjoyed your review even more WJ after reading it :)

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