Tag Archive: A Visit From St. Nicholas


Along with A Visit from St. Nicholas, there is no more famous Christmas story than Charles DickensA Christmas Carol Since it debuted in 1843 it’s been reprinted hundreds of times, made into more than 100 films, and its ghostly lesson trope has been incorporated into dozens of TV series.   For England, A Christmas Carol meant the revival of universal celebration of the holiday of Christmas that would spread across the planet, as well as cementing traditions that continue 178 Christmases later.  I want to share an idea for your own cold winter read in the tradition of a very Victorian Christmas in England:  borg writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s latest novel, Cold-Blooded Myrtle, the third book in her Edgar Award-winning mystery series.  As reviewed in the Wall Street Journal this month, “Younger [Sherlock] Holmes fans (and older ones too) should be charmed by Bunce’s Cold-Blooded Myrtle, the latest entry in her series featuring 12-year-old amateur sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle.  In 1893, Myrtle receives a double Christmastime shock: the death, in The Final Problem, of her fictional idol Holmes, and the apparent murder of the proprietor of her town’s mercantile store.  Tidings of discomfort, indeed.”  It’s chock full of Myrtle’s notations on Christmas traditions, including some little-known oddities from Christmases past.

After a year that saw her helping the constabulary discover the murderer of her neighbor and surviving a botched vacation at seaside where she foiled more than one criminal’s efforts, young Myrtle hopes to have an ordinary Christmas.  Her current pursuit is simply finding an appropriate present for her unflappable governess–and frequent partner in solving crime–Miss Ada Judson.  But when does anything ever go as planned at Christmas?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re not familiar with her novels, you should be.  Connie Willis is probably the best living science fiction author, winner of all the science fiction writing awards, penning classics like To Say Nothing of the Dog, Lincoln’s Dreams, Bellwether, Remake, Doomsday Book, and many others.  But you might not know she’s also a fan of the Christmas story, and has written two collections of stories, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories and A Lot Like ChristmasThis year she was tapped to select the contents for American Christmas Stories, an all-new collection of 132 years in 59 stories from well-known and lesser-known writers and authors, from Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, and Langston Hughes, to Ed McBain, Shirley Jackson, and Ray Bradbury.  Readers will find writers across the ages combining multiple genres with the Christmas tale like science fiction and horror.  All reflect the American experience from 1872 to 2004.  It’s an incredible look at culture in America, both good and bad, and it’s available now here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Two big storybooks for kids from Abrams fuse classic Christmas tales with traditional music boxes built into the books’ bindings.  Previously released is a retelling of The Nutcracker in rhyming verse illustrated by Bodil Jane, and new for this holiday season is Clement C. Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas {originally published as A Visit from St. Nicholas), illustrated by Raquel Martin.  Each includes a classic music box mechanism readers can crank to listen to music cheer for all to hear while reading.  Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker plays on the first book and Deck the Halls plays with Moore’s poem.

Take a look inside each book below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

“The waters speak the truth, that they do.  Only now have you lived long enough to know the child that you shall always remain.  That which dwells in the heart can never be lost to the spirit.”

Some artists’ works are so brilliant, so evocative, so memorable, and so successful, that whenever they draw, sketch, or paint, it turns heads.  One of those artists is Bill Sienkiewicz.  His 1980s comic book artwork changed the way comic books are approached by artists and readers, forever.  His trademark abstract works and his recurring sketches of people making the news are regular features that can make you happy to open your social media application for the day.  Put Sienkiewicz together with a Santa Claus story?  It’s as good as it sounds, and it arrives in stores beginning this week.

We’ve seen some incredible work on Christmas stories in the comic book medium before.  Take for example the modern Batman opus, 2011’s Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo (we reviewed it here).  Now this year we have Santa: My Life and Times, An Autobiography, a lavish, updated edition to a 1998 project.  It features a holiday story written by Jared Green (and Santa, of course), with vibrant and festive watercolor art, cover to cover, by Sienkiewicz.  As are all good storybooks, this is a shiny, over-sized hardcover.  You will get lost in the details of every page of art.  Marvel at all the wintry critters.  Peek inside windows.  The beauty of nature’s magic is everywhere.  By my count there are not only more than 100 illustrations by Sienkiewicz in this book, there are 100 poster-worthy illustrations.

The storytelling is very Victorian and grand, neither modern nor silly.  This is the same voice found in the classic 1823 Clement Clarke Moore holiday staple,  A Visit from St. Nicholas (aka ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas).  Green’s voice of Santa is like a conversation in a good Dickens hero’s friendly voice.  Think Bob Cratchit.  This is a deep, rich, well-thought out fantasy.  The story spreads pure goodness and joy, the kind you’ll want to read to little kids (or adults, or cats), complete with Dr. Seussian sound effects peppered about.  No doubt this is the same Santa that influenced the likes of Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, Steve Irwin, and Jim Henson.  The look and feel matches the spirit of the Rankin/Bass Christmas classics perfectly.

Here are some pages of the interior art and story from Santa: My Life and Times: An Autobiography, courtesy of Titan Comics:

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As the meme goes, you either think Die Hard is a Christmas movie or you’re wrong.

Although we’re not quite sure where we’d rank Die Hard along with the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins, or Trading Places, we’d agree:  Yes, Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas movie–as much as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is a Thanksgiving movie.

Writer Doogie Horner and illustrator J.J. Harrison would also agree, and so Horner merged Die Hard into Clement Clarke Moore’s classic annual Christmas storybook, A Visit From St. Nicholas (the poem everyone knows that begins with the line ‘Twas the night before Christmas…”), and Harrison drew the pages of the story in the “Little Golden Book” style.  The result is A Die Hard Christmas–The Illustrated Holiday Classic, a cute little 32-page hardcover tome that will fit right nicely alongside the stocking of your favorite action movie fan this Christmas.

Of course it’s not really a children’s book.  What keeps it from a G rating is a few scenes showing bad and good guys getting killed with cartoonish blood spatter illustrations, and the single use of John McClane’s famous phrase from the film that Bruce Willis is best known for, beginning with “Yippie ki-yay,” etc.  So consider yourself warned.

For adults it’s a clever idea, executed with some love by Horner, who reports he has watched Die Hard 102 times so far.  Take this line, for instance: “Karl swept the ground floor, shooting every guard dead while visions of bearer bonds danced in his head.”

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