A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is nothing objectionable here, and that it is a true secular holiday treasure, too little known.
What's the story?
A memory of Christmas celebrations long ago in Wales. The narrator relates them to a small boy who peppers him with questions and directs the telling to the subjects, such as The Useless Presents, which interest him most. There is no story, as such, just vignettes and memories of presents, relatives, neighbors, minor adventures, walks with friends, meals, postmen, and more. Impossible to capture in a summary, the events in this prose-poem will be both familiar and yet delightfully far away to today's children.
Is it any good?
There are two great pleasures here. The first is the lyrical, musical, reverberating language. Dylan Thomas, one of the greatest of the English-language poets, writes in a prose style that highlights the pleasure of words, words, glorious words, phrases that fill the mouth and the mind, and images that, like soap bubbles, amuse, delight, then disappear as the next one arrives. Children too seldom have the opportunity to hear the power of the English language in the hands of a great master, and in a form that is meant for them, that doesn't leave them behind, but catches them up and carries them along.
The second pleasure lies in the images of holiday celebrations long ago: the details, at once alien and yet oddly familiar and recognizable; the humor and warmth of family and friends; and the vividness of the little set pieces that lodge immediately in the mind and memory. Simple, lyrical, poignant, uplifting -- this is a true holiday rarity, one that shouldn't be missed.