Book Reviews: Christmas Stocking Fillers

By Liam Cahill

Twas the Night Before Christmas

In Clement C. Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas (Houghton Mifflin Company €9) the magic of St. Nicholas is described in great detail as children wait for his Christmas Eve visit.

It begins with a simple yet imaginative set of descriptions; stockings being hung by the chimney with care, children snuggled asleep in their beds and even mice awaiting the impending arrival. Each line in this now infamous book narrates a Christmas story most of us can only dream of experiencing.

Set in the 1800’s in an old yet glamorous mansion, the poem tells the story of Christmas Eve from the perspective of the author as he prepares for the clatter of reindeer in his mansion’s grounds. The author’s description of the Christmas Eve night has become something of a legend in literary circles. The original poem was published in the Troy New York Sentinel by Moore, although at the time he chose not to disclose who he was. It was later turned into a small book, and by Hollywood into a variety of films.

Moore uses a variety of formal language generally associated with the mid 1800’s and gives us a taste of St. Nicholas who up until then was a mere myth. Perhaps Moore’s greatest gift was giving his narrative a magical feeling, echoing themes from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and laying down ground work for children’s themed poems and novels to come.

What’s consistent throughout Moore’s work is a fairytale Christmas story conjured up to bring children into a realm other than our own. His description of St. Nick gives us a Santa who was in his commercial infancy. The narrative gives us a classic example of children’s writing at its finest. Modern literature has taken on a more, shall we say, futuristic tone.

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The Hunger Games

In Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games (the first book in a trilogy) (Scholastic, €8) the future is a grainy dark world where twelve boys and girls are forced to partake in a live TV show for survival.

Katniss Everdeen is thrust into the futuristic world where children must compete for survival. Everdeen makes a serious decision, to stand in the place of her sister Prim at the selection process of the games. What unfolds is a battle of will and might. Everdeen must endure the gruelling task of seeing off her opponents and staying alive in the process. Within the games each contestant is from a different part of the fictional world. Everdeen, for instance, is from District 12, a run down part of the city. “Starvation’s not an uncommon fate in District 12. Who hasn’t seen the victims?” says Everdeen.

Collins, who got the idea for the book while looking at war coverage on TV, details a narrative which seems almost too unrealistic to be believed. Although the reader may sympathise with the poverty stricken communities of this new world, they will love the end goal. Collin’s narrative twists the teenage novel on its head and offers audiences of all ages a peek into a world where simple rules no longer apply.