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Book Review: The Night Before Christmas in Africa


At about this time every year, little ones begin to wonder about some very important things.

Have they, for instance, been a good kid-good enough for a visit from St. Nick? Will Santa be able to find their house? Does he prefer chocolate chip or sugar cookies with sprinkles, or is he more of a peanut-butter-cookie-kind-of-guy? And if their home doesn’t have a chimney, how in the world can he ever leave presents?

The good news is that they can stop worrying. As they can see when you read them “The Night Before Christmas in Africa” (c.2004, 2010, Pelican Publishing Co., $16.99 / $19.99 Canada, 32 pages) by Jesse, Hannah and Carroll Foster; illustrated by Jean Christodoulou, Santa Claus can arrive anywhere, anytime, and he might look very different.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and it was dry on the African plain. The cattle were thirsty, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and there was certainly no snow. Monkeys chattered in the treetops.

Maybe they were thirsty, too?

The children were settled down for bed that night, sleeping on mats on the hard, dry ground, while Mama brought pots inside. Her eldest son waited outside, hoping for rain, when he heard a sound from faraway. What could that be? He listened….

And then he saw an incredible sight! It was a donkey cart being pulled by six kudu and a black rhinoceros, and it was piled high with presents. Inside the cart was a man with a long, flowing beard, wearing red from his ankles to the duku on his head. He stopped the cart, stepped out, and opened his heavy sack.

And oh, the most amazing things were in that sack! There was candy for the children and piles of toys, a chair for Gogo, chickens for Mama, and a hat for Kulu. The old man laid the presents out and asked the young man what he wanted for his gift.

Candy and toys were nice for children, and chickens were a good choice for Mama, but what the young man wanted more than anything was rain. Lots of refreshing rain.

Silently, the man in red returned to his sled as a rumble of thunder came from afar. The young man stood. What, to his wondering ears, did he hear?

Sometimes, despite the fact that we love old holiday favorites, it’s easy to become a little tired of them. If that’s the case, you’ll find “The Night Before Christmas in Africa” is a nice twist on the usual.

As the story goes, author Carroll Foster’s children wondered why they never heard African Christmas stories, so Foster simply created one for them. In this re-release of a book once chosen by Oprah as one of her “favorite things,” you’ll get Foster’s cute rhyming story with a bonus: you’ll also be treated to beautifully lush, colorful illustrations from South African artist Jean Christodoulou.

If your little one is getting antsy about Santa’s visit, this book is a nice diversion. “The Night Before Christmas in Africa” is perfect for their ho-ho-holidays.