7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #198: Featuring Steve Light

h1 December 19th, 2010 by jules

I can’t let the holiday season slide by without featuring some illustrations from at least one holiday title, and this year it’s Steve Light’s The Christmas Giant (Candlewick, September 2010), which endears itself to me more and more with each reading. And I suppose now is the time to feature this, if one celebrates Christmas. This is the last Sunday before Christmas, which gobsmacks me. Can gobsmack be a verb? I doubt it, but let’s just pretend it can be, okay?

This title is infused with a real joy and a sweet charm. It’s the story of a giant and an elf, two very good friends, who live in the North Pole. You may be scratching your head, but child readers will just run with this. A monstrously tall, bearded giant with hairy knuckles? A wee, hooded, funny-looking elf who fits into the giant’s palm? Best buds? Santa’s helpers? Sure thing. Onwards and upwards then… Makes all the sense in the world to children, don’t you know. Light knows this and simply forges ahead.

The giant, Humphrey, and the elf, Leetree, are responsible for making the wrapping paper for Santa’s gifts. Light demonstrates the duo’s love for this task with funny, little details child readers will hoot over (one of the book’s biggest charms being that he never rushes things and it’s never too cluttered in both narration or composition), all rendered via pen and ink and pastels. Problem is, once they finish this chore every year, they’re seriously bummed out. But they cheer up this year, ’cause Santa gives them a special assignment: to grow the holiday tree for Christmastown. They’re overjoyed and grow the tree with great care and devotion. Finally, the tree is ready and they set off:

But, after stopping to rest and getting a bit of shut-eye, things go haywire, and our clever duo have to come up with a plan to salvage the holiday celebration. I won’t give away the ending, though…well, the last spread kinda does that on its own:

(Click to enlarge.)

Yup, wrapping paper! These guys have got it covered (in more ways than one), thanks very much.

But what you have to see for yourself are all the illustrations between their brainstorming session and the final product above, ’cause—again—Light fills them with funny moments, not to mention the friendship between Humphrey and Leetree is very convincing and pulls you right in. There’s a warmth to these stylized illustrations. “Muted colors and swirly lines evoke old-fashioned folk art while retaining a fresh cartoon whimsy,” wrote the School Library Journal review. Both art and text employ a certain economy of expression, bringing us characters sweet, genuine, and quirky — but Light is never too ABC After School Special about it.

Publishers Weekly called this “a refreshingly original addition to the Christmas canon.” I’d have to agree. After a while, holiday titles all start to look the same (I know this, as I did holiday-review rounds-up here at 7-Imp in the past but gave it up, as many of the titles were blurring in my vision), but this one stands out.

THE CHRISTMAS GIANT. Copyright © 2010 Stephen Light. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

First of all, it’s about time. Someone go and get Obama a pen already.

1). Okay. So. I could probably just list this kick right here and stop (but I won’t), because I love this. There’s this wonderful singer/songwriter/musician named Nicole Atkins, who has this song called “The Way It Is” (I’ve rambled about it here before at 7-Imp), and she is, as I described her before, very much Dusty-Springfield-meets-Morrisey-and-then-they-stumble-into-Roy-Orbison-in-a-bar-and-then-have-a-gin-and-tonic-with-Edith-Piaf. Or “pop noir,” as her music been described before. She has this powerhouse of a voice but knows how to keep it subtle, too. Anyway, so Seth Avett of the wonderful Avett Brothers does this cover here of “The Way It Is.” He pares it down to piano only, altogether different than Nicole’s performance — and beautiful. I guess it’s not for everyone, but I particularly ♥ this song, and he makes it sound, I dunno, like a standard. (I think this is from a couple of years ago; I’m slow sometimes.) Admittedly, he starts off a bit wobbly, but you gotta stick with him.

The only thing better than this performance is THAT BEARD. Or maybe how he has strung his piano with lights.

2). My nearly-seven-year-old daughter told me this week that she loves me more than she loves doughnuts. Seeing as how her allegiance to doughnuts is steadfast and immeasurable, I think I should feel flattered. And grateful.

Here she is, hiding behind an ornament. I try not to bore you all with kid-pics, but anyway.

3). This made me laugh super hard. Thanks, Jill.

4). Sam Phillips was on World Cafe this week, and she performed “Lever Pulled Down,” my favorite song from this year and a mighty splendid song all-around. In fact, if you scroll down to album #1 in this post, you can hear the song for free.

5). I enjoyed this from author/illustrator Elisha Cooper and not only because the notion of a coffee shop tour seems flat-out brilliant to me.

6). The end of A Tale Dark & Grimm: “There is a wisdom in children, a kind of knowing, a kind of believing, that we, as adults, do not have. There is a time when a kingdom needs its children…”

7). After grabbing the nearest book to read to my girls, which happened to be a collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, I ended up reading “The Little Match Girl” to them. Christmas story, I thought. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Then I remembered that I had the (very) short and little-known animated film below on DVD (from Disney and Pixar). So, I showed them that, too. (It’s well-done, the music from Alexander Borodin is beautiful, and there’s absolutely no jibber-jabber-Disney-princess-dialogue whatsoever. In fact, there’s no dialogue at all.)

When the little movie ended, the five-year-old turned and gave me Angry Face — and with tears in her eyes. Lordy. Score one for mama. Having just finished reading the very intense, no-holds-barred A Tale Dark & Grimm to them, I swear I’ve already taken care of their therapy sessions FOR LIFE. Our next read really has to be something light and fluffy. Bubble gum and gossamer, I tell you.

(I enjoyed “The Little Match Girl” immensely as a child, so that should have been a clue to me. I was WEIRD. I liked stories that ended in tragedy and left you feeling rather heartworn, such as this or this. Dude. I gotta remember that my girls might actually be normal.)

This is not really a kick, is it? Ah well, the short film is. It’s lovely.

BONUS: My friends who are there for me when the notion of writing a book makes me want to hide my head under the bedcovers. Literally. Special thanks to Jessica, who really understands this feeling, and patiently listened to me after I pulled myself out from under said covers.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. What about you?

P.S. I doubt anyone remembers this tiny kick from a couple weeks ago—Delta Spirit’s song, “Flood”—but if you want to hear it, it’s available right now as a free download. It’s a gorgeous song and So Much Awesome, so take advantage of it here if you want some great, new tune-age. (I don’t know how long it will be there as a free download. No, I don’t work for them, but I’d sweep the floor of the Waits Room for free, if I could hear them play live.)

Oh! And happy holidays to all…To those of us who celebrate Christmas, it’s just around the corner, isn’t it? Seriously, I love you people. You kickers. You make me want to get up every Sunday morning.

22 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #198: Featuring Steve Light”

  1. The Christmas Giant looks charming.

    Jules, to be loved on the same gut level as a scrumptious donut is pretty impressive. : – )

    My holiday season kicks:

    1 – shopping at an art fair for gifts (a hand-blown marble, a feathered mask and a bunny puppet that is a dead ringer for Craig Ferguson’s cursing bunny.)

    2 – seeing a Christmas-lights boat parade pass by.

    3 – Went to my mom’s monthly bunco night with all her retired teacher, librarian and school staff friends; spirited group. They’ve been meeting/gabbing together for 35 years running!

    4 – from my hotel room I can hear a lone train whistle blowing in the distance; the saddest sound.

    5 – the happiest sound — singing carols with my car radio on LOUD (Pa rum pum pum pum!)

    6 – Gotta love the Hallelujah Chorus flash mob: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE&feature=fvwk

    7 — and a partridge in a pear tree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgSe_gzyM1

    Merry Christmas to all (who so celebrate)! And to all a good week!

  2. Oops! link was short a letter. Let me try again:

  3. Jules, you were the one who got me onto the Avett brothers (thank-you!) so I will check out Nicole Atkins too! Love the Christmas book, and the ornament photo.

    Denise, your art fair finds sound like wonderful presents! I have no idea what a bunco night is but 35 years of gabbing sounds perfect.

    Sorry I’ve been absent, guys, a busy schedule and lack of a permanent spot for the computer has conspired against me. Sundays just aren’t the same without all the kicks!

    1. Catching up with friends and family has continued. This has included a fantastic Thai meal, ice cream and lots and lots of talking.
    2. My new library has a 20 book limit compared to 10 last time around! And much smaller fees for inter-library transfers and overdue books!
    3. My librarian at work is incredibly keen and helpful and has already dug up lots of articles for me.
    4. I am settling back into life in Brisbane, which has included finding a new GP (my beloved family doctor died unexpectedly a little while ago) and optometrist (my favourite one selfishly retired to spend more time with his small children), and the new people are very promising!
    5. It has been raining an awful lot, even for summer. Seeing as we were still in drought when I left in mid-2007 I still delight in how much water there is everywhere.
    6. My niece learnt to crawl properly in my first two weeks here, which was a fun process to observe. And I got to read to her the other night!
    7. In a short space of time we have bought presents for people that we think they will enjoy. And one of my presents that I picked out is a cute plant in a nice black pot for my desk at work, that will be cheery all year long.

  4. Jules, thank you for the music and for the year of lovely Sundays. And I’m glad to hear you’re looking for fluffier to balance The Little Match Girl, as I’m afraid your littler one will be saving pennies for a trip back to Disneyworld if you don’t. My 21 year old claims she’s still chilled by my single reading of Anderson’s Little Mermaid, despite seven thousand choruses of “Under the Sea” with Sebastian and Ariel.

    And of course she’s the kick of the week — coming home after work on Wed. Tree will get its glitter on today. Then husband off with a friend to see Tron; not too enthusiastic about the movie, but I need to do Secret Stuff. And the Normal Stuff: more tea and writing. When you mostly-love your work, sometimes you have to nudge the holidays back a bit.

  5. A quick fly by to wish everyone a Happy Christmas — and to thank you, Jules, as Jeannine said, for another year of lovely Sundays. It’s easy to see why you are loved more than doughnuts 🙂 !

    Thank you for the gift of 7-Imp!

  6. Before I read the article on Steve Light, I thought totally whimsical and so doe SLJ. Ha. Pure delight.
    Jules, never boring to see your girls,I love the photo w/ ornament. As a child I adored all the creepy fairy tales. It’s shocking for those who only know Disney when they read the originals.
    Denise, aren’t art festivals/fairs the best?
    Emmaco, glad you are settling into your new home.
    Jeannine, love having to do “secret stuff”.
    My kicks:
    1. Having 10 for dinner on Friday. Husband made Sicilian pizza. Yum!
    2. Going to a HS friend’s house today (also transplanted years ago to the NW from CA) for homemade tamales.
    3.School’s on winter break.
    4.Visiting weekly here. Its like a virtual coffee/tea time.
    5. Tea and homemade cardammon(sp) bread from a friend.
    6. Read Saltypie by Tim Tingle. What a beautiful story.
    7. Am grateful for friends and family.
    May you all have a joyous week.

  7. Thanks for the Little Match Girl film…so lovely! I was also one of the strange children who *loved* that story.

  8. I’ll be back later, everyone, but here’s another free download, if anyone wants a Christmas song. Sam Phillips’s very, very kickin’ re-working of “Away in a Manger,” as you’ve never quite heard it before.

    Hope this link works: https://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=batch_download&batch_id=RlRxQmtaMGt3TGhjR0E9PQ

  9. Oops. Must give credit where credit is due. That is courtesy of Notable Music.

  10. Denise, 9 pygmies farming (or whatever number it was). HA. Glad I wasn’t taking a swig of coffee at that moment.

    Who’s the lucky recipient of the Craig-Ferguson cursing bunny puppet?

    And oh yeah, what is a bunco night? I’m with Emmaco.

    Emmaco, I’m so glad you got to see your niece crawl, ’cause YOU ARE THERE NOW! Woot. And yay for a bigger book limit at your new library.

    Jeannine, congrats on your daughter being home. Good luck getting Secret Stuff done — and writing. I have to settle down and do that today, too.

    Jama (and Jeannine), AW SHUCKS. Thanks. It’s my pleasure. You all make it so fun. Merry Christmas, Jama!

    Jone, happy holidays, and congrats on your winter break. Thanks for kick #4, too. I’ll have to look for that Tingle story.

    Josephine, let’s start a club.

  11. Jeannine, Jama, Jone, Josephine, and Jules.

    There’s another club. (Clubs are fun, you see. Any excuse to meet in treehouses and have SNACKS.)

  12. emmaco & Jules — bunco is a very simple game played rolling 3 dice (first round you roll for 1s, the second round 2s, etc.) it’s so easy it’s mindless — so that you can play and GAB at the same time (thin excuse for a SOCIAL gathering.)

    Son, Max, age 15, is the Ferguson fan and a good mimic; he’s sorely disappointed that one has to be 18 to SEE the show in person. Max gets the bunny (and consequently I’m sure our Christmas morning will have a colorful #*?! soundtrack.)

  13. Happy December holidays to all of the Imps! I hope that you are staying warm, dry, and healthy.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) I auditioned for a TV movie. I was very pleased with how the interview and audition went. We’ll see what happens!
    2) I booked the webseries I auditioned for last week.
    3) I auditioned for a play today, and it went exactly how I pictured it, so I’m very happy.
    4) Taking care
    5) Studying
    6) Helping
    7) Knowing

    I am pleased that DADT was repealed.

    I am sad that Blake Edwards passed away.

    Have y’all seen Notebook Babies? I just stumbled upon it while watching something else on YouTube. Watch the one about toads. Oh my gracious.

    Stephen Light: As the resident elf (perhaps Herself the Elf!), I send greetings to your Christmas Giant.

    Jules: Gobsmacked is such a fun word. I’m glad that you outrank doughnuts in your daughter’s heart. The Little Match Girl is intense and sad. It’s fun to kick off the week here at Seven Imp. Thanks for hosting, week after week, list after list.

    Denise: A Christmas parade boat? Neat! If I had a nickel for every time I had to sing the Hallelujah Chorus… Have you seen this flash mob? Bloomingdale’s NY

    emmaco: Woo hoo for the library increasing the check-out allowance! I am so sorry that your family doctor passed. May your new doctors be intelligent and kind. Hi to nyour niece!

    Jeannine: I love the Disney adaptation of The Little Mermaid. The songs, lyrics, and vocal performances are amazing. I will always prefer that to the original ending, which I found it so odd! I respect the original story, of course – fairy tales, original and retold, are of great interest to me, and I read and talk about them all of the time. In fact, I was discussing TLM with teens on Friday.

    Jama: Jam on, lady!

    jone: Wowza. That’s a big gathering for dinner. (To me, anyway; I never host big to-dos!)

  14. LW, keep us updated on the auditions. Fingers crossed for you. So glad the movie audition went well.

    The Notebook Babies need to see a dentist, yes?

  15. LW — thanks for the Bloomingdale’s flash dance. Someday… I’m gonna have to choreorgraph a flash mob event. That’s on my Bucket List now. : – )

  16. jules: Thanks! It’s been a long week. Good things to come. I saw a dentist this week myself and am seeing another tomorrow. Good times, good times.

    Denise: Nod nod!

  17. 7 kicks:

    1. I got to read William Joyce’s Santa Calls to a group of second graders. I knew the group from a short substitute teaching gig at the beginning of the school year.

    2. Since leaving the second grade teaching gig, I grew a beard which was quite a shock to the kids. I had them vote and it was overwhelming that I shave the beard!

    3. Christmas Break began for my kids and wife!

    4. I began the break by visiting my best friends in the world- They welcomed my large family into their home, fed us well!

    5. My fantasy football team did well in the playoffs.

    6. I am currently reading the books of Jarrett Krosoczka which are fabulous.

    7. Looking forward to the week with my family.

    I found your post because of Steve Light. I was lucky enough to interview him for my blog. Hope you check you can check it out:


  18. Eric, nice to meet you, and thanks for the link to the interview. Love the story about the absence of snow on the cover.

    Enjoy Christmas with your family… (And I can’t believe they dismissed your beard. DOH!)

  19. Welcome, Eric! Happy holidays!

  20. Jules,

    Your daughter IS right–you are better than doughnuts!

    I’m late again–so busy this time of year.

    I had a great Sunday. My daughter drove down to our house so she could help me and my husband make pierogis for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner. Later, my husband and I attended a Christmas party hosted by one of our dearest friends who has been battling stomach cancer for over four years. He is an amazing individual. We’re so grateful that he is still with us.

  21. Hi, Elaine. It’s okay if you’re late. Always good to hear from you. Glad your Sunday rocked. Merry Christmas!

  22. […] image from Steve Light’s The Christmas Giant, released by Candlewick in 2010. (I covered it here at 7-Imp a couple years ago, if you’d like to see some final art from […]

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