The publisher HarperCollins has created a new imprint called It Books to capture the popular culture audience, so it is no surprise they would release three graphic novel representations of three Christmas stories. While their publicity claims these are Christmas classics, few will be familiar with L. Frank Baum's "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" which is adapted here by Alex Robinson. Baum, better known for the "Wizard of Oz," created a short fable about Santa who is kidnapped in flight by the demons Selfishness, Envy, Hatred, and Repentance. His work is carried on by four helpful assistants who know how to get the sleigh around, but mix up the presents the children are receiving. All could be lost, but never count out the magic of Christmas. Robinson adds a small love story and a great deal of humor to Baum's story, which seems perfectly suited for the graphic novel format. Robinson's stark black and white illustrations are either filled with details or clear in their simplicity, depending on how he wants to move the story forward. Of the three books released, Robinson's style will be the most familiar to those with a knowledge of comics histgory with several panels on a page and balloon text throughout. His adaptations to the story are an improvement and worth seeking out.
The truly classic "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry gets a retelling by Joel Priddy. The story of a young couple selling their prized possessions to purchase each other a gift is well known to most through a variety of adaptations. Priddy also keeps the colors simple, mainly black and white although at times with a bluish tint, that is until Della's legendary hair is revealed. From a black and white bun comes a wave of orange which cannot be contained in even two pages and only disappears slowly as the hair goes back into hiding. The impact is immediate and successful in its attempt to portray the beauty of the hair to the reader. He keeps very close to the story itself, omitting just a few lines which he can easily show, and he moves the story along at the leisurely pace in which it was written. Many pages contain no text as Priddy gives us a glimpse into the couple's private life which he plays out at times with full pages, at times with panels, and often a mix of arrangements. The book opens with several pages setting the scene without text as we see a store window version of the magi give way to the snow and our story; as the story ends he takes away from the domestic life and out into the stars as O. Henry's text puts the story in perspective. Priddy's adaptation rescues the story from the numerous sentimental versions in existence by allowing O. Henry's voice to be heard and providing a vehicle which enhances the story.
Lilli Carre's adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Fir Tree" adds more than a splash of color to the trio. She also keeps very close to the text, which is too bad since the story of a short tree full of self pity sounds like just so much whinnying in today's world. Written over 160 years ago, Anderson's readers may have been more sympathetic than many of us to the "victim" format. But Carre takes Anderson at his word, and her illustrations reflect his work with little comment. In fact, the book feels more like a picture book than a graphic novel as her simple, yet beautiful, illustrations reflect the text but stand alongside it rather than being involved. It is a lively book, but would benefit from having the illustrations frame the story.
If It Books is hoping to hit a more pop culture audience, than this is the right method. The small books are created with the possibility of being stocking stuffers this holiday season, and they would be a good fit for many stockings.Powered by Sidelines