Monday, December 23, 2013

Arthur's Christmas Cookies by Lillian Hoban (1972)

When I first became a children's librarian fifteen years or so ago, Arthur the anteater was probably the hottest picture book series - we couldn't keep any on the shelves.  But the only Arthur I knew, and loved, was Lillian Hoban's Arthur the chimpanzee.  I loved this book as an early reader, and read it even though it wasn't Christmas.  My 8 year old self though that salt instead of sugar in the cookies was hilarious.  The kids in the book - like Peanuts, the adults are off screen - are all chimpanzees.  Interesting chimpanzees too - they dress like Edwardian children, but have an EZ Bake oven (straight out of the sixties); they also perch on chairs like a chimp would and never wear shoes.  The gender roles are switched too, which I suppose was pure 70s - Arthur, a boy monkey, not only bakes, he ends up crying at the end when the cookies don't turn out.  His previous attempts at masculine gifts - such as building something - have fallen flat. I still think this story holds up really well; only the clothing is a bit dated, and afterall, they are chimps - they can wear whatever they want.  Kids won't care.

Arthur's Christmas CookiesArthur's Christmas Cookies by Lillian Hoban
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another beloved childhood favorite, which has stood the test of time.  My 8 year old early reading self thought the sugar/salt mix up was hilariously funny. And chimpanzees dressed like Edwardian children is funny, regardless of how old you are.   I also now have  hard time imaging Christmas without hot chocolate, sugar cookies, and a good friend sticking his head through the door asking if I want to go out and have snowball fight - a tough one in southern California.  Arthur's Eyes is so lame compared to the almost Peanuts like characters in these Arthur books.  I still think they rock, all these years later.

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