Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

This is quite simply, one of the most beautiful picture books I have ever read. It manages through glorious illustrations and text to capture what the essence of Christmas is for me...dark days where we reach out to one another...and in those moments find warmth and joy.

It's the story of a little girl, Frances, who sees a man and his monkey on the street performing day after day. "Where do they go at night?" she wonders. She loves the's sad and feels like a dream. Meanwhile, she's also preparing for a pageant at her church. Her mother doesn't really answer her questions to her satisfaction, but Frances can't get the man out of her mind.

The illustrations depict dark winter days with snow swirling everywhere and Christmas lights and home lights providing some sparks of life. The story is touching...I cried when I read it. Not because it's sentimental or cheesy, but because it's the celebration of simple human contact.

I was first interested in reading this book when I saw Kate DiCamillo at the National Book Festival and an audience member told her it was his favorite Christmas story ever. And while I can't quite say that, I can say it's a beautiful treasure of a book that belongs in your Christmas book collection. I know I plan to treasure my copy for years to come.

Rating: 5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: A Christmas book
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: Candlewick Press


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