Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Twas the Night Before Christmas: Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century, by Clement C. Moore (illustrated by Elena Almazova and Vitaly Shvarov)

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century
Author: Clement C. Moore 
Illustrators: Elena Almazova and Vitaly Shvarov 
Editor: Pamela McColl 
Publisher: Grafton and Scratch Publishers 
Publication Date: September 4, 2012 
Buy Now on Amazon.com (Hardcover)

It's not often that I get to write a review for a children's book that's so controversial it gets featured on The Colbert Report's "Blitzkrieg On Grinchitude" segment. Though to be fair, Stephen Colbert doesn't feature many children's books at all, other than I Am a Pole (And So Can You!). But the new edition of Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas tale, Twas the Night Before Christmas, edited by Canadian anti-smoking advocate and book publisher Pamela McColl, has been making headlines all over the place. The controversy stems from the fact that she has edited out the lines about Santa's smoking:
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teethAnd the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath
Pamela McColl has long been an advocate for smoking cessation, and has worked with Allen Carr of Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. Her reasoning is that it's probably a good thing to limit the amount of positive reinforcement of smoking that children are exposed to, so maybe it was time for Santa to give up the pipe. This has, apparently, blown people's minds. The backlash has been huge! 

For me, it's kind of a non-issue. I have multiple copies of the book in my house, I've enjoyed it since I was a small child and I now read it with my daughter. But if I'm being honest, I've been editing that line for Magda the last two years. She's not old enough to read it herself yet, so I can absolutely understand why parents would be interested in getting the "smoke free" version for their kids to have for years to come, particularly if the kids are reading it themselves. I'm not so "horrified" or "incensed" or whatever some of the other reviewers are saying about the edit. 

I'd also like to point out that classic literature gets edited, abridged, reinterpreted and re-worked ALL THE TIME. Just this month I've reviewed "baby versions" of Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick and Alice in Wonderland, to name a few. It's not that controversial! 

I will say this though. Apparently the print edition of the book has a "Letter from Santa" explaining the changes. I received a digital review copy and it wasn't included in the file. But here's what's on the Amazon product page:
A letter from Santa Claus: In this special twenty-first-century edition, select lines have quietly slipped from the pages. Here at the North Pole, we decided to leave all of that tired old business of smoking well behind us a long time ago. The reindeer also asked that I confirm that I have only ever worn faux fur out of respect for the endangered species that are in need of our protection. This includes my dear friends the arctic polar bears.
Wait, what? Santa's wearing faux fur now? Okay, I call bull$#*! on that one. Santa lives in the FAR NORTH. He can't wear faux fur! He'll freeze to death! Also, no one said he wore POLAR BEAR fur! There are plenty of furs that Northern peoples wear that are humanely killed, not over-hunted, and are from animals that are also used for meat and bones. Not all fur comes from mink farms or "my dear friends the arctic polar bears." I mean, if Santa's going to give up fur and not freeze to death, he'll probably have to switch to those high-tech mountain expedition fabrics that people wear on oil rigs in Alaska, which just ruins the whole look.

Okay, I'm glad I got that off my chest. 

Anyway, the illustrations are cute and the book is otherwise exactly the same, just with the smoking lines omitted. I think you probably already know if you'd prefer this edition or one of the originals (which are still readily available, so there's no need to panic, other reviewers!).

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Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own

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