December 03, 2019

Sounds Like Christmas

Written by Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Michael Martchenko
North Winds Press (Scholastic Canada)
978-1-44317-582-1
32 pp.
Ages 3-8
October 2019

Christmas should be a time of love and giving and family and celebration. But for many this seasonal holiday is a time to consume and outdo others in gift-giving and in displays of lights and such.  In Sounds Like Christmas, Robert Munsch with his celebrated illustrator, Michael Martchenko, takes on the competitive sibling rivalry of Lincoln and Georgia as they decorate the family Christmas tree with an odd assortment of unconventional ornaments that create noise, each child trying to outdo the other in their selections.
From Sounds Like Christmas by Robert Munsch, illus. by Michael Martchenko
After Grandma, busy with her baking, asks her two grandchildren to get off their devices and decorate the tree, the two set to work with lights and garland, candy canes and balls. But when Georgia adds a raucous woodpecker to the tree, it sets off a competition between the siblings for bigger and louder. Lincoln adds his large sound effects key chain, and Georgia her talking doll. Lincoln adds the neighbour's barking dog and Georgia grabs her exasperated, and hence loudly yelling, Grandma and sticks her on the tree. The tree becomes a cacophony of
Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!
Bzap! Bzap! Bzap!
Ma-ma! Ma-ma! Ma-ma!
Woof! Woof! Woof!
Aahhhhhhhhhhhh!
From Sounds Like Christmas by Robert Munsch, illus. by Michael Martchenko
But before things can be put to right, their grandfather with his snow blower, both making a clatter, get perched on the tree top and Michael Martchenko displays it all on a double-spread that requires the reader to turn the book sideways to appreciate the vastness of the noisy tree.
From Sounds Like Christmas by Robert Munsch, illus. by Michael Martchenko
With their Grandpa's familiar threat to many children at Christmas about no presents, and most of the noisy "ornaments" quietening down, Lincoln and Georgie withdraw to the kitchen to do their own Christmas cookie baking, sure in their knowledge that Santa Claus is the one to bring gifts. A final illustration reveals a surprise for all except for Lincoln and Georgian, undoubtedly safely tucked away in their beds.

Robert Munsch brings the ridiculous to the ordinary as he has done in so many of his  stories, whether classics like I Have to Go (Annick, 1986) or newer titles like So Much Snow! (Scholastic Canada, 2016). Here he brings Christmas together with enlisting the help of children and just reveals what many of us have known all along. Getting kids to help out may be the hard part for some parents and teachers but it's not surprising to discover that their help isn't always as you envision it. Of course most people would not tackle a job as we might–and that doesn't make it wrong, just different–but by giving a story in which two children go to extremes to ensure an incomparable tree with audio, Robert Munsch gives us a holiday tall tale based in a reality we all know.

It's always a delight to see Michael Martchenko's illustrations accompanying Robert Munsch's words. For many, there is no other illustrator for his works. Michael Martchenko's watercolour illustrations know how to meld the real with the wacky, here showing us kids playing on their technology (their body language is so authentic!) and then displaying a grandmother hanging from the tree by her apron strings. Except for the odd assortment of vocalizing adornments, this could be anyone's Christmas, for those who choose and are fortunate enough to have a tree to decorate.

Happy decorating for the holidays!

๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„

A French language edition, Vacarme de Noรซl, is also available from Scholastic Canada.
Vacarme de Noรซl by Robert Munsch, illus. by Michael Martchenko    9781443175838

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