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Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine Library Binding – 1 Aug 1984
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Snow has started to fall and there is so much to do for Christmas. Decorations to make, presents to wrap and food to prepare. Ernest and Celestine are sure to make it a memorable Christmas! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Celestine is a mouse.
This picture-story book, part of a series (not all translated into English -- alas!), does not overtly explain the circumstances of the duo.
Nor does it explain why, relatively speaking, Ernest is a very small bear, and/or Celestine is a very large mouse.
But this is the world of talking animals who wear clothes and celebrate Christmas.
Clearly, Ernest is an adult, a "grown-up", and has a parental-carer role.
Just as clearly, Celestine is a "child", with a child's enthusiasm. (The "grown-up" and "child" body proportions are obvious, despite the species!
(I read this book in a doctor's waiting room, so without the book in my hand, I write from my morning's memory.)
It seems that, although Ernest and Celestine are managing OK, they are severely short of money.
Ernest feels their financial constraints with some rueful intensity; and bubbly optimistic Celestine has a wider circle of distant relatives and friends.
(Searching for on-line details about the books, and about Gabrielle Vincent, there is surprisingly little information.
BUT it seems that, in some way, Celestine lives in a one-person orphanage, and Ernest is the "grown-up" in charge of Celestine.
But, not knowing that, at the time, as I read, I happily glossed over the lack of explanation -- child, and adult, plus Christmas, ... now read on.)
It will soon be Christmas, and Celestine wants a Christmas party with all her relatives and friends. (That shows her character!)
Ernest knows this is at least financially difficult, if not impossible. (Adults are like that, and grasp the reality of a tight budget!)
(The story proceeds through brief dialogue, and details in the gorgeous pictures -- think for example, of Beatrix Potter, E.H. Sheperd, "Brambly Hedge", and others.)
Celestine persists, and, reluctantly, Ernest agrees.
The essential Christmas tree is searched for and found outdoors in the snow. Celestine is delighted!! Ernest seems glum, AND has to do the hard work!
Christmas decorations are hand-made and hand-painted.
Celestine is very enthusiastic! AND, charmingly, she commends Ernest as quite good as an artist -- where we, observing, are left feeling that Ernest is actually not very good at painting, AND feels bad about this, BUT Celestine generously provides exactly the right encouragement.
They are genuinely poor, because we see them, once more outside in the snowy street, searching rubbish bins (trash cans), AND, to Celestine's delight (and, perhaps, with some quiet reservations, Ernest's endorsement), they find some bags of discarded clothes and fabrics that are JUST RIGHT for dress-ups, and a new party dress (secretly!!) for Celestine, and more.
Invitations are sent out -- even to Celestine's older distant male relative (Daniel? a dubious character! Ernest does NOT want to invite HIM! but Celestine insists! she has a warm heart!)
The Christmas party is WONDERFUL!
At first, Celestine's male relative is annoying and spiteful.
Everybody else is having a wonderful time! (Thank you, Celestine!)
Ernest disappears upstairs, and SUDDENLY Santa Claus (or Pere Noel, or Father Christmas) appears in a big red dressing-gown, wearing a big white beard. (There had been earlier hints of something like this as a future possibility ...)
Celestine cries out, "Where is Ernest?!" She wants her best friend to see Santa Claus!!
She rushes outside into the snow, searching, desperate -- "Where is Ernest!!??"
Ernest, in his big red dressing-gown and beard, hurries out to rescue Celestine from the snow!
"Didn't you know it was me?" he asks. (We, the adult reader and our surrounding audience of squealing squirming children can hardly believe this is happening, and we are SO HAPPY! ...)
And there are a few more page-spread pictures of a FABULOUS do-it-yourself on-a-shoe-string Christmas party! (Thank you, Celestine! And, of course, Ernest!!)
Even Celestine's snarky male relative admits he had a marvellous time, and is grateful, and apologises for having been a silly nuisance at the start, and asks if he can be invited to next year's Christmas party.
This is a gem! A small masterpiece of art and brief, but focussed, narrative!
(I am sorry to have spilled the beans about the plot, but it is such a lovely story that any initial loss of surprise is irrelevant because you will read and reread this story, year after year, KNOWING EXACTLY WHAT WILL HAPPEN, and just wanting it to go on forever!)
This is very highly recommended as an addition to EVERY FAMILY'S collection of Christmas picture-story books!
John Gough -- Deakin University (retired) -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Such cute pictures in these books and a lovely little story!
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