Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Six Found Christmas

How Six Found Christmas
Trina Schart Hyman ~ Little, Brown & Co, 1969

And so, the holidays begin. Over the next few weeks, I wouldn't expect Christmas every day, but you're probably gonna see a lot of it here. I have a huge stack of Christmas books I've collected over the last year, and I still haven't unpacked the mother load from the attic yet. When I started this whole thing, I had a small basket under the Christmas tree in which I kept my son's holiday titles. That way we could gather at certain moments of the day and sit under the twinkling lights and read a story or two. Now I'm wondering what sort of large bookshelf would fit underneath the branches without looking totally obnoxious.

That said, Ms. Hyman has always been sort of a mystery to me. There is something so masculine about her illustrations that I couldn't quite take them into heart fully as my own. They were almost too wonderful and lush and complex and frightening, even. Little Red Riding Hood. St. George and the Dragon. Snow White. These books are on our shelves, but I never felt drawn to her work until I discovered this little gem.Once upon a time there was a little girl who had never heard of Christmas and therefore did not know what it was. By chance one day she happened to meet an old wise woman who told her that there was such a thing. But the wise woman did not elaborate on the matter, so the little girl was left as ignorant as before, yet with great curiosity. Being a sensible child, she decided that the best way to find out what a Christmas was would be to go and find one, and have a look for herself.

So the girl heads out into the Great Snow Forest of the North to look for Christmas and along the way she meets five animals, each one as ignorant of the holiday as she. Each one asking a different series of questions about the thing she was seeking. The cat wonders how Christmas feels. Comfortable and warm or cold and sharp? The hound wonders how it smells. Delicious and comforting or ancient and frightening? A hawk asks what it looks like. Round and fuzzy or flat and clear? The fox, how it tastes, sweet or salty or sour or peppery? The mockingbird imagines how it sounds. Everyone is awash in confusion until the pack stumbles across a lost bottle in the snow and one by one all the animals deem it, in fact, to be Christmas. The moral of the story is revealed on the last page: Christmas is not only where you find it; it's what you make of it. That even an object as simple as a bottle can be a source of wonder.

Though she illustrated dozens and dozens and dozens of titles for other authors, Hyman only penned a handful herself. But within the simplicity of this story, it's easy to find the soul of an artist and perhaps Christmas along the way.

It wasn't until I read this ~ a little something she wrote about motherhood and art ~ that the final nail in the coffin of love was set...

“I’m a nest-maker. I have had this conversation with every woman artist I know: How do you do your work and your home and your children and your relationships? And we’ve all come to the conclusion that that’s why there aren’t more women artists; it’s why all the really big creative forces were men—because women are split; they’re just schizophrenic about [how] they’ve got to take care of home, children, meals, their husbands or lovers. How to put that all in perspective—how to slot your life—takes up a lot of energy that you could be putting into your work, should be putting into your work. We all feel it and we don’t know what to do about it.” I think Trina might be my new hero.

8 comments:

Chandra said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm a huge TSH fan! I know she was incredibly prolific and so I'm constantly stumbling upon something 'new' of hers. This one looks fantastic and I'll be keeping an eye out for it!

FairiesNest said...

What a wonderful post! I love her work but this peek into her thoughts was so revealing...and I can identify so much! Thanks again!

Kat said...

Thanks for posting about six. How wonderful to have another artist speak what is in my heart. I just happened across your blog and am so glad I did.

Lou@weheartbooks said...

This is just stunning. I'm in love and must track a copy down.

Angelica said...

Great post, and great Christmas story. I will have to find a copy as well.

Cissy said...

My favorite part of this post is that thought from the author. Truly, how often I find myself stepping away from a hobby, an art, an obsession, saying,"This is my season for motherhood." And then I think that I want my interests to be an integral part of my kids' lives and begin again to write or sew while they play. And then I step back again. What a balancing act we women undertake.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and talents as well as great authors and illustrators.

Laura@popdesign said...

This is so lovely too... I definitely need to visit your blog more often!

Michelle Rhiannon said...

Thanks for posting this. This was one of my favorite books as a child. I used to beg my grandmother to read it to me upon every visit to her house. Before she died she wrote a note to me in the book and gave it to me. I still have it. What wonderful memories and as I look at your blog the memories with her come flooding back. Thank you again.

*Blessings,
~Rhiannon

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