By Berkeley Breathed (Little, Brown & Co.)
ISBN: 0-316-10881-2 (HB) 978-0316102490 (PB)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: To Be Read Every Christmas Until the Stars Grow Cold… 10/10
After a surprisingly brief and deservedly glittering career as a syndicated strip cartoonist and socio-political commentator (so often the exact same function) Berkeley Breathed retired Bloom County and its successor Outland and took up a new career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. He lost none of his perception or imagination, and actually got better as a narrative artist. He also didn’t completely abandon his magical cast of unique characters.
We sneer at sentimentality these days but in the hands of a master storyteller it can be a weapon of crippling power. This glorious fable is purportedly one told every Christmas Eve to the author by his own father before being generously shared with us in mesmerising prose and captivating illustrations.
In 1939 young Red Breathed was well on the way to becoming a snotty, cynical wiseacre. Sent to spend the Holidays with his Aunt Vy, he mooches about all day with her old dog Amelia, while lusting as only a child can after an Official Buck Tweed Two-Speed Crime-Stopper Star Hopper bicycle.
Tweed, of course, is the famous movie serial star “Red Ranger of Mars” and the only thing capable of brightening the benighted life of this woeful, unfairly exiled child. Times are tough though, and Red knows his chances of getting that bike are non-existent, but he just can’t stop himself hoping…
On his way home he sees an odd, pointy-eared little man heading for the ramshackle house of that reclusive old man Saunder Clős. Since he’s a big kid now, Red knows there’s no Father Christmas and none of that hokey magic stuff is true, but even so he finds himself sneaking up to the old house that Christmas Eve night…
This is a gloriously powerful tale that fully captures the magic of believing and the tragedy of realisation, and yet still ends with a Christmas miracle and a truly surprise ending. Get this book for the kids, get this book for yourself, but get this book – and on pain of emotional death, don’t peek at the last page until the time is right!
© 1994 Berkeley Breathed. All Rights Reserved.