Dylan Thomas’ short lyric story has finally been presented with the dignity it deserves, in New Directions’ beautiful pocket-sized edition. The text is accompanied by woodcuts by Ellen Raskin, herself a Newbery Medal-winning author (The Westing Game) as well as an accomplished artist. Her best woodcuts are those featuring animals, like the cats that Thomas’ narrator waits for in Mrs. Prothero’s garden (p. 3, above) and the wolves and birds that used to inhabit Wales (p. 11).
Thomas’ prose is as lyric as his poetry:
Years and years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and snowed.
Like the best children’s literature, A Child’s Christmas transcends the genre; it stands its ground alongside the rest of Thomas’ oeuvre. It’s a lesson in observation and considered recollection, a true literary gift.