Hi, all! I’m Katie Doherty, an online news editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a co-worker of Moody Mom’s. She asked me to give the children’s book “Together at Christmas” a spin and let you know what I think. Since our family just polished off the last of the Tofurkey leftovers (mmm, Tofurkey!), Christmas seems officially fair
game. So I tested it out on my 6-month-old daughter, Vivian, who’s just learning to appreciate books, mostly by gumming them.
Written by Eileen Spinelli, the (less creative) wife of Jerry Spinelli, the Newberry Medal-winning author of “Maniac Magee” and my personal favorite, “Do the Funky Pickle,” this little storybook is about 10 mice, shivering in the snow on Christmas Eve, who find warm refuges one by one, only to realize (spoiler alert!) that they’d rather spend the special day together.
Since I read this to Vivi as a bedtime story when she was already getting droopy for the evening (more like late afternoon — the time change has her thinking 5 p.m. is a suitable bedtime), she didn’t register pleasure or displeasure at the story or illustrations, mostly wanting to turn the pages backward as I was reading, so I’ve assessed it on the basis of these new-mom metrics:
Illustration cuteness factor: Moderate. The mice are nice, but on most pages they also closely resemble wombats with rat tails. Which is weird. But possibly also cuter than actual mice. Also, the color scheme is a little drab, so smaller children who gravitate to high- contrast pictures may be unimpressed. My bambina, who seems to prefer
Vogue magazine to anything else, didn’t seem enthralled, but I think she’ll grow into it.
Rhymes, on the Seussian creativity scale: Yawwwwwwn. The rhyme scheme is pleasant and soothing, but the meter is broken once midway through the book, which bugs me each time I read it. However, I don’t think
the babies will mind.
Chewability factor: Low. Even a 6-month-old didn’t want to put this hardback in her mouth.
Christmasy-ness factor: Low. Children and parents of other faiths won’t be offended, which I love for my Christmas-AND-Hanukkah household.
ADD factor: Low. The book’s short and sweet.
Moral of the story: Sadly, this is weak: This book’s theme is that holidays are meant for together time, and that’s all it has to say. Presumably we’re supposed to find the end, in which one of the mice finds a haven suitable for all to share, heartwarming, but I couldn’t get past the every-mouse-for-himself majority of the book. Even at the
end, only one mouse does the work for the entire group. So if you’re looking for a book on cooperation, move along; there’s definitely nothing to see here.
Overall sweetness factor: Moderate to high. I’m a sucker for rodents snuggling in a great pile.
Buy, borrow or skip: Borrow. But pick up a few additional books just in case.