[merry review + giveaway] An Artist’s Night Before Christmas by Joan C. Waites

This holiday season, millions of families will cozy up by the fire to enjoy Clement C. Moore’s iconic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

Indeed, many of us know “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by heart, and reciting it re-awakens the child in each of us who still believes. As soon as we hear those first few lines, the magic and wonder begin:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all
through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Wait a minute. Do you really believe that? ๐Ÿ™‚

What if there was a mouse stirring? What would he be doing up late at night while the rest of the house was asleep?

These are the questions award winning author/illustrator Joan C. Waites asked herself, and she’s detailed her answers in a delightful new picture book (the first she has both written and illustrated), An Artist’s Night Before Christmas (Pelican Publishing Co., 2017)!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, in a cute country house.
Not a creature was stirring except a French mouse.
Beneath the old stairs, through a crack in the wall,
lived le petit artiste named Henri DuPaul.

Like many artists, Henri was a perfectionist. He wanted to create a special gift for his best friend, but things were not going well — his blended paint colors were too bright, and nothing worked when he tried pen and ink.

While busily experimenting, he suddenly heard footsteps. Were some of the portraits of his art friends playing tricks on him? He stepped out into the hall and was startled to see a jolly old man in a red suit. Santa asked him why he was still up, so Henri explained how he’d been struggling to paint a gift.

Troubled Henri asked Santa for advice. Could he see what was wrong? Should Henri do a landscape or a portrait, were there certain colors he should use? Leave it to St. Nick to share precious words of wisdom:

Then Santa bent down to pick up Henri
and, lifting him up, sat him down on his knee.

‘No matter which way you create your fine art,
a true friend will value a gift from the heart.’

But of course! This was precisely what Henri needed to hear. He realized that painting from the heart was the best he could do.

He checked his proportions, the value, and light.
Voilร ! Henri’s painting had turned out just right.
Dear Santa was wise, Henri had to agree.
He wrapped up the gift, placed it under the tree.

I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing what Henri ends up painting or who his friend really is. Suffice to say, they both have a very Merry Christmas — and there’s cheese! ๐Ÿ™‚

Joan’s spin on the classic poem will hold special appeal for creative types. They’ll be able to relate to Henri’s struggle, not only his desire for perfection, but his earnest wish to produce the very best for someone he cares about. Don’t all artists struggle with self doubt and anxiety, making many false starts before a work is completed?

Readers get a mini art lesson in this appealing tale, as Joan has woven art-related terms and techniques in the text and depicts various supplies in the pictures and borders of each double page spread. We see tubes and splatters of different colored paints, blots and squiggles of black ink, and a wall of portraits featuring Henri’s friends, art masters such as Picasso, Renoir, Cassatt, Degas, and Matisse (all of them adorably whiskered, of course). Techniques like stippling and crosshatching are introduced when Henri works with pen and ink.

Munchkins will fall in love with Henri from the start — who can resist his wee beret, tiny art supplies, sweet bottlecap palette and thimble of water? We get a true sense of Henri’s diminutive size once Santa arrives on the scene and Henri encounters his big black boots. The interactions between the two, played out in several spreads, are both winsome and touching, and children will love seeing what happens when someone accidentally catches Santa on one of his visits.

Appended are an Author’s Note, Glossary of Art Terms, and a Glossary of French Terms sprinkled throughout the text. Don’t miss this heartwarming story with its timeless themes of the “art” of friendship, the spirit of giving, and the wonder of Christmas.

Merci beaucoup, Joan and Henri! Joyeux Nรถel!


written and illustrated by Joan C. Waites
published by Pelican Publishing Company, 2017
Picture Book for ages 3-8, 32 pp.
*Includes Author’s Note and 2 Glossaries



The publisher has generously provided a copy of the book for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Tuesday, December 12, 2017. You may also enter by sending an email with HENRI in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!



Ho Ho Ho! Lucky for us, Monsieur Random Integer Generator was in town this week doing a little holiday shopping. Friends spotted him browsing Tiffany’s for a sparkly bangle or two. I wonder if he has a special female companion who’s just as astute with numbers and loves all the finer things in life. I do like the sound of “Madame Random Integer Generator,” don’t you? ๐Ÿ™‚

Mr Cornelius texted M. Generator just as he was leaving Tiffany’s, on his way to Sak’s. Could he teleport himself to the Alphabet Soup kitchen for a few minutes to pick a Pick a Pine Tree winner? Mais, oui!

M. Generator was here in two shakes of a bunny’s tail (his mustache and top hat preceded him). All the furry Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers picked their teeth in celebration (this practice more socially acceptable than picking their noses). After all the names were tossed into his hat, M. Generator, after inhaling deeply, picked one lucky winner, who is,

*drum roll*


*jingle bells*


*trumpet fanfare*


ย *cha cha cha*


* la la la*

*picka picka picka*



โค๏ธ ๐ŸŽ‰ WooHoo! Congratulations, Joanne!! ๐ŸŽ‰ ๐Ÿ’

Please send along your snail mail address to receive your book.

And thank you, everyone, for entering!!


Lisa at Steps and Staircases is hosting the Roundup this week. Zoom over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere. Have a festive weekend!

*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text and illustrations copyright ยฉ 2017 Joan C. Waites, published by Pelican Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

**Copyright ยฉ 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

35 thoughts on “[merry review + giveaway] An Artist’s Night Before Christmas by Joan C. Waites

  1. Appreciations for this fun peek at Joan C. Waites clever rhyme & holiday art – a true gift from your heart, Jama. I can think of several artists I know who will squeal with delight at the portraits spread.
    (exempt me from the give-away for my recent book win here & congrats. to previous winner Joanne!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my, another mouse to love! This is what made it so challenging when I had those two mice in my house a few weeks ago. Artists and authors make them so darling! This looks wonderful and sounds like a very clever story. I love the added parts for doing art, too. Thanks for sharing, Jama. And Joan, congratulations on a great new Christmas book! “He checked his proportions, the value, and light./Voilร ! Henriโ€™s painting had turned out just right.” Hurrah!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean — mice are adorable in picture books but not so cute running around your house. ๐Ÿ˜€ My favorite mouse story involves my leaving a candy bar in my briefcase on the floor of the bedroom. When I got up the next day, the candy was completely gone, but the mouse left the wrapper almost intact and unwrinkled, with just one cleanly bitten horizontal slash across the top. If you just glanced at it, it looked like the candy itself was still in the wrapper. Sneaky guy! I like my mice talented and neat.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love picture books about artists! Thanks for letting us know about this one. Looks perfect for the season. (Had to laugh at your comment about Mme. Random Integer Generator…)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a fun book, and Henri is adorable (pronounced the French way, of course ;). Congrats, Joan & thanks, Jama!


  5. i love stories with animal characters in them so would love this book. Also the illustrations are just delightful.

    fruitcrmble At Comcast DOT net


    1. Yes, definitely a nice retelling to add to one’s collection. Would be fun to read a different version of the poem for each of the twelve days of Christmas. ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. I love children’s books about the process of creating art. This one looks so unique, and cute too! Thanks for book-talking about it, Jama.


  7. This was the perfect post to augment my early morning with fresh snow on the ground, carols playing in the background and the wood stove gently pulsing beside me. Thanks for introducing me to this delightful picture book. I’m off to order a copy for a family of young children. I know they’ll love it!


  8. What a clever take–Thank you for sharing, Jama, and for sponsoring a giveaway. I will see if our library has this book. The sentiment/message is touching, I can tell from what you’ve shared.


    1. Thanks for visiting, Lisa. This would definitely make a nice addition to any library collection — hope yours has it, or that you’ll request it if they don’t. ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. On Christmas Eve before we went to bed, my dad always read aloud The Night Before Christmas and mom read the Bible story. I can still hear their voices when I read these texts!


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