I’m going to review a children’s holiday book now. Even without saying another word about this book, it’s got a couple of potential strikes against it. First off, it’s a kids’ book of which a large percentage are just bad. I mean really, there’s a lot of terribly insipid kids’ books out there. Take, for example, a book about opposites that my kids are reading these days that stars a certain famous tank engine character. There is a spread in this book that shows a rather heavyset train conductor on one side, and a slender conductor on the other. The text reads “fat/thin”. Seriously?! This is something we want to teach our children?! The next thing you know, I’ll be walking down the street with my girls and they’ll start throwing out unsavory weight-related labels at everyone who passes by. Perfect. Thanks for nothing, you shallow, shallow tank engine.
Sorry, let’s get back to the book in question. Strike two: it’s holiday-themed. Even the best holiday-themed books are only palatable for 1/12th of the year, at best. The rest of the time, they’re just downright annoying. A certain Easter book shall go unmentioned at this juncture. As I’ve said before, these books must either be tolerated year-round, or hidden in a dark corner under the couch. If you choose the former, you will be reading about Santa Clause in July. If you choose the latter, you will be forced to lie when your children inquire about the book’s whereabouts. So what are you going to do all year? Wallow in unseasonal literary rubbish, or endure soul-eroding guilt about lying to your kids? Believe me, I’ve done both, and you lose either way.
Alright, let’s put all that aside for a minute. The book in question is none other than Llama Llama Holiday Drama, the fourth volume in the Llama Llama series, which I’ve reviewed previously. The kids and I have really enjoyed these books; thus, I gave this series an official Dadbloggit Endorsement. But now, author Anna Dewdney is treading in holiday territory, and I’ve got my guard up. No way, Dewdney. Don’t think for a second that you can just waltz in here an snag yourself another Endorsement without going through the ringer. We’re starting from scratch, baby.
Let’s dive in. First off, the title – I’m totally digging it. The drama/mama rhyme is catchy, and best of all, the use of the word ‘drama’ is right on the money. Let’s not sit here and pretend that the holidays constitute a lovely, effortless time of year, full of heartwarming, fireside moments. No! The holidays are chock full of drama, as our little llama protagonist is about to discover firsthand. Unpacking holiday decor… eating too many cookies… shopping… little llama experiences these and many other horrors as he anxiously awaits the arrival of the unspecified holiday. Based on the pictures, one assumes the llama family celebrates Christmas, but the holiday is continually referred to as the “special day”, I suppose in an attempt to attract as many readers as possible. I’ll have to do my research as to the religious tendencies among camelids.
Anyhow, the plot progresses and little llama’s condition worsens. The overwhelming array of holiday activities he must endure coupled with his own impatience basically render him completely incapacitated. Everything comes to a head, and little llama collapses to the floor from sheer exhaustion. This fatigued state is dramatically illustrated in a large two-page spread. My daughter Bean is for some reason absolutely terrified of this spread. She’ll sit with me warily at the beginning of the book, but as more pages turn, she’ll jump off my lap and build some distance between herself and the impending llama on the floor. With the turning of each new page she’ll cautiously approach to see what’s on the new page, but then run away once again and just listen. “I no like holiday drama, Daddy! I no like llama on the floor!” she cries out. In my opinion, it’s not a particularly frightening picture, nowhere near as scary as the illustration at the climax of Llama Llama Red Pajama, which does actually scare me quite a bit (there, I said it). What can you do?
So who will help little llama get through this one? I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say it’s a parent whose title rhymes with ‘llama’, and she’s basically the hero of every single Llama Llama book. With her wise words, she reminds little llama to take a chill pill, and remember that the holidays are all about giving and family. Good message. I’m down with it.
Overall, then, I’m pleased with the book, even if Bean isn’t. If you’re going to do a holiday book, you better be honest about what happens during the holidays and not sugarcoat the crap out of everything like most kids’ holiday books do. Holiday Drama does this well, and provides a good lesson at the end. The rhymes flow really well, as always, and the illustrations are superb, if a bit frightening. Way to go, Dewdney. Ya done good. The Endorsement is yours to keep.