One Very Possible and Very Festive
2011 Holiday Illustration Before Breakfast #1

h1 December 1st, 2011 by jules


“That Christmas Eve Ma and Pa and all the children scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed before they put up a very little tree from the market with no more decoration than two candles and a tin star on top. All the pennies in the purse had been spent on pens and pulleys and a bit of brown sugar. But the flat was clean and neat, and each child had a present, if only a little one, and the oatmeal was delicious. ‘But it isn’t much of a holiday feast, is it?’ said Pa sadly. ‘Ah, but think of the money we saved,’ said Ma, and she gave him a kiss because it was Christmas.”

Here’s an idea: There are some holiday picture books I’d like to share here at 7-Imp—I like doing that this time of year—but if did a typical post about each one … well, I just wouldn’t have time for that, unless I, say, neglected my children and work-that-pays altogether (not to mention—this just in at the 7-Imp news desk—the edits I now have to do on this work-in-progress).

Anyone can throw images up at a blog and walk away, which is why I always like to provide commentary of some sort or another about the images and the book in which they reside. Or invite creators over and have breakfast chats, etc. etc. and all that.

But, THAT SAID, in the interest of time, these holiday images will be just one (sometimes more than one) image from the book, a brief summary of the book, and the cover. Just a zippy-quick little series of holiday illustrations, since I enjoy seeing what illustrators are doing in the way of festive picture books.

Entry #1, on this first day of December, comes from Brock Cole’s The Money We’ll Save (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2011), probably my favorite holiday title of all and a great picture book no matter what month of the year it is. Dang, I could say a lot, because I adore this book and am generally an enthusiastic fan of his work, but I’m going to have to stick to my economy of words here. (Be strong, Jules.)

This is set in a 19th-century New York City tenement. One day, Pa brings home a turkey poult after Ma sends him to the market for merely two eggs and a half pound of flour. “Think of the money we’ll save!” he tells his four children and wife, the idea being that it’ll “fatten up into a fine bird, and we can have it for Christmas dinner.” The bird lives in a wooden box by the stove. He is named Alfred, and he causes lots of trouble. (Or: What they save in money, they gain in headaches from annoyed neighbors and a very crowded home.) But when it comes time to take the bird to the butcher, there’s some resistance, to say the least—“What? We can’t eat Alfred!”—but I won’t spoil the entire book for you.

Brock Cole, who must be over the age of 70 now, creates such specific, detailed worlds. I love his writing, and I have always loved his illustration style. His loose watercolors are infused with light and are remarkably expressive.

And I am really crazy about the illustration opening this post. Happy December. And happy holidays.

(P.S. I meant for that to be even shorter. Maybe next time…)

* * * * * * *

THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE. © 2011 by Brock Cole. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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13 comments to “One Very Possible and Very Festive
2011 Holiday Illustration Before Breakfast #1”

  1. What a wonderful idea…holiday illustrations. I am looking forward to each and every one. Love the very first one. I think that Larky Mavis is one of my favorite books of all time.


  2. As my mother’s family came exactly from homes like this one (and exactly the same time period & place), I’m going to certainly pick this book up for my son & niece. Thanks, Jules! (And I love this idea as well!)


  3. cole is 73 by my count, and to my mind creates books that are classics the day they are published. and honestly, how long before we’re all raising poultry in our homes, the way things are going?

    looking forward to the other holiday illustrations this month…


  4. David, I second all that. Scraps-and-Smells is one of my favorite picture book protagonists. Everything he does is good. Now I wanna hit the library and get them ALL.


  5. What a perfect idea! Can’t wait to see all the illustrations in the series. Happy December :)!


  6. I loved this book! Thanks for highlighting it.


  7. We read the same (mostly) beloved holiday books each year, so I’m looking forward to adding some more to the mix. Just reserved this one from the library. Thanks, Jules, and good luck with the zippiness!


  8. Oh, thanks, Jules. This looks like an excellent one for my library’s collection.


  9. Think of the Money I’d Save if I stopped reading this blog and adding book after book to my wish list! Looks lovely and I love the idea of holiday illustrations! Can’t wait…


  10. […] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast a blog about books « One Very Possible and Very Festive2011 Holiday Illustration Before Breakfast #1 […]


  11. […] my quest to feature 2011 holiday titles this month, today I feature an illustration from A Stork in a Baobab Tree: An African Twelve Days […]


  12. Love the illustrations! Looks a bit like David Small, who I ADORE. Beautiful.


  13. […] are messy and wonderful in that watercolorish way.  This is a good one.  (Read more about it here at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.)  (Farrar Straus Giroux, […]


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