What starts out as a dilemma of an overabundance of Christmas trees for the Mellop family of pigs, turns into a heartwarming lesson on the power of giving to those in need.
In this quirky Christmas story, first published in 1978, four young piglets from the Mellop family (Casimir, Isidor, Felix and Ferdinand) independently from each other decide to surprise their father by fetching the nicest tree from the forest to decorate for Christmas. “But what a to-do when they got them home! The Mellops’ hall was filled with trees and tears.”
The family decides that the four trees should be gifted to people who don’t have one. The piglets visit the orphanage, the hospital, the prison and the soldiers’ barracks, offering their charity, but they already have a tree.
When the boys were about to give up they have come across a house with less-than-fortunate residents lodging in its four rooms – a sick grandmother, a shivering old solider, two frightened children and a lonely old lodger. Not only do the Mellop boys give a Christmas tree to each of those poor souls, but they also supply blankets, firewood, medicines, groceries and food – everything for celebrating Christmas in comfort!
This charming picture book with a typically French flavour is the fruit of Jean-Thomas “Tomi” Ungerer (born 1931), a celebrated French author and illustrator who has been labelled a polymath and a provocateur, and whose motto is “Expect the Unexpected!”.
It is said that Tomi landed in New York in 1956 with only $60 to his name and a suitcase full of drawings. From there he quickly established himself as a caricaturist, illustrator and children’s book author and went on to publish over 140 books which have been translated into 28 different languages.
In 1998 for his lasting contribution as the creator of illustrated children’s books he received the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, which is sometimes referred to as the little Nobel Prize for achievements in children’s literature.
Of his own books Tomi Ungerer says: “If all these books still thrive, now translated into over 40 languages, it is most likely because at the time they broke all the rules applied to children’s books peopled with cushy teddy bears in an illusory world where everyone is nice, happy and stupid”.
The subtle theme, sparse text and two-toned minimalist illustrations of this inspiring tale of benevolence is bound to put a smile on the face of all those who believe in the power of gift-giving which is conveyed in the true spirit of Christmas.
For more reviews of fabulous Christmas books click here.
If you'd like to win this book, click here to find out how, then watch out for more great Christmas book reviews coming up in this Advent review series.