Monday, December 12, 2016

MMGM: A Christmas Carol

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick

A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
A Christmas Carol: In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas

Written by Charles Dickens
Cover art by Trina Schart Hyman

Holiday House , 1986
118 pages, 29000 words

       Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's signature was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was dead as a doornail.

If you haven't read the original, isn't it high time you experienced the richness of Dickens's text or shared it with the young people in your life? It isn't just Charles Dickens's plotting ability which makes his work endure. His character description, humor, and vivid comparisons make him a master story-teller.

As a life-long fan of artist Trina Schart Hyman, it's no wonder this is my favorite copy of A Christmas Carol. In keeping with the holiday spirit, her colors are rich and her details lavish. Hyman's ability to draw people, old, young, crooked, sly, merry, or other-worldly, makes her an ideal artist to re-envision this classic.

 1. I love this edition of A Christmas Carol, but any unabridged copy will do. Reading aloud is a great option for introducing kids to difficult vocabulary and old-fashioned style. If you haven't the time or skill to gather around this book as a family, grab the CD of Patrick Stewart's abridged audio version. He has kept much of the rich language and descriptions, giving life to the dynamic characters in the story, and including bits you might not be familiar with. His performance is truly astonishing. Play the audiobook while trimming the tree or with a bowl of popcorn by the fireside. Once you've heard it a few times, reading the original manuscript will be much more natural.

Audio version of A Christmas Carol one-man-show
performed by Patrick Stewart

2. Brett Helquist has created a picture book version, if you must. Helquist's style is eerie, matching the ghostly tone. The text is a pretty good interpretation of the original. However, I am not a believer in shielding kids from complex language. I read my first Dickens at 11 years old. Naturally I struggled a bit, but I remember clearly the satisfaction as I conquered each chapter. There's so much more to the story than what will fit in forty pages. If your reader is almost ready for the original, try the version from Eyewitness Classics. I love how DK uses photos and drawings alongside the text to help readers understand the historical references. I would've pored over these books as a kid.

Brett Helquist's picture book A Christmas Carol
A spread from the Eyewitness Classic edition by DK

3. If you are looking for a different style of illustration, Quentin Blake's timeless art graces a new edition this year and Arthur Rackham's traditional paintings are just about perfect.

Quentin Blake, 2016
Arthur Rackham, 2016

4. Most towns have some local theater performance of the play. Buy tickets and support local talent. And if you're in Tennessee, I hear Gerald Charles Dickens's one-man-show is not to be missed. Snowed in? Cuddle up with a Christmas Carol dvd like Patrick Stewart's, Alastair Sim, or the muppets.

God bless us, every one!

Have you reviewed a Marvelous Middle Grade Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations for December 12, 2016.

MMGM started way back in 2010 by Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of Lost Cities. Each week, participating bloggers review our favorite books for ages 8-12. Why not join us?


  1. Thanks for all of these great resources. A very timely list.I was just thinking about this story as I have some young cousins, nieces, and nephews heading my way for the holidays.They will be getting a small dose of one of these.

    1. You're welcome. This story in it's original form is anything but trite, and I'm so glad your family will have a chance to share it this Christmas. Thanks for checking in.

  2. I love this book! Still have my mother's beautiful copy from 1938, published in Philadelphia by John C. Winston Company with illustrations by Everett Shinn. And yes, I re-read it from time to time.

    1. Cool! I didn't know Shinn did illustrations. I'll have to look that up. His work is very moody. Thanks.

  3. I don't believe I've read the original Christmas Carol. I have seen the movies many times. I like your favorite, the art is vibrant. But, it's nice to know there are a variety of resources.

    1. At just over 100 pages, I hope you'll have time to give it a try. Enjoy the holidays! Thanks.

  4. I have always loved the original of this book and taught it every year. It takes no time to read, but your are right. It is a very rich book in every way. Thanks for the resources. I haven't heard the audio but will check it out.

    1. Maybe some of your reluctant readers will get hooked on audiobooks like mine did. Thanks!


Thank-you for taking time to share your thoughts!