Monday, December 10, 2007

Ring, blessed Bells, for Christmas Morn, Joy in Full Measure, Hope new-born

I have found the perfect book for Christmas.

A few weeks ago when Ickie and I were downtown for the annual Christmas tree lighting, Ickie discovered The Box of Delights by John Masefield in Longfellow Books. His eye was drawn to it immediately because of the beautiful red cloth binding and cover art, courtesy of The New York Review Children's Collection. When he flipped it over to read the summary, two quotes made up his mind that it must be purchased.

"Christmas ought to be brought up to date, it ought to have gangsters, and aeroplanes and a lot of automatic pistols." (This quote is from Maria Jones, a hilarious spunky friend of the protagonist.)

"It is...a unique work and will often be re-read.... The beauties, all the 'delights' that keep on emerging from the box--are so exquisite, and quite unlike anything I have seen elsewhere." --C.S. Lewis

That second quote pretty much sums up my review. Delights has all the best bits of E. Nesbit and The Narnia Chronicles. In fact, it's easy to see that Delights was a major influence in Lewis's more-famous series. It's an ideal read for Advent, with Kay, the protagonist, at home on holiday with his friends, all happily free of adult supervision. Amid cozy meals, snow games, and holiday parties, Kay meets enigmatic characters and uses the magical Box of Delights to fight against a malevolent magician and his gang who have abducted the cathedral staff in an attempt to prevent the midnight mass.

Masefield's story is viewed through the willing eyes of a child: everything is magical and dreamlike. There are wolf men and Roman soldiers, talking mice and wood spirits, bloodthirsty pirates and fanciful contraptions. The final joyful chapter when Christmas day dawns brought me to tears.

Ickie read this out loud to me over the last few weeks as we sat by the tree, and it's a tradition I plan to continue. I can imagine how much I would have enjoyed this as a child.


Jenny said...

Oooh... I AM going to put this on my to-read list. Preferably before Christmas.

Karen and Sean said...

I just bought this book. Hope it gets here before Christmas!

Jenny said...

Hey, just wanted you to know that I've gotten this book and am reading it now.

Ha-ha, what?