Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Knights Before Christmas

Holub, Joan (Author)
Magoon, Scott (Illustrator)
Macmillan 2015. 32 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780805099324 (hardcover)
9781627798594 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, figurative language, point of view, setting, structures and features

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

A castle is guarded by three knights—Brave Knight, Polite Knight and Silent Knight. Deep one winter night, “out on the drawbridge/there arose such a clatter,” and who should the knights discover but Santa Claus, on a sleigh pulled by eight dragons. The knights set about trying to shoo away the invader, but despite their silliest efforts, Santa won’t be stopped and flings sugarplums over the castle walls using a fir tree as a catapult. The volleys of goodies continue back and forth until Santa, at long last, moves on. The knights, delighted, decorate the catapult with the “treats of their triumph” as Santa bellows a variation on the well-known final couplet, “Merry Christmas to all/And to all nighty knight.” Using the same anapestic tetrameter and ABAB rhyme scheme as the original “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” this pun-filled picture book teases out an elaborate spoof from a single homonym.

The illustrations are alternately colourful and dark as the narrative moves in and out of the castle and the images depict candlelit scenes or salvoes of colourful gingerbread men. The full-page representative digital illustrations are augmented by occasional speech bubbles (“Jingle bells, invader smells”) and other graphic additions, like the scroll on which Polite Knight issues “dire decrees”: “Marauders: Take Baths!”; “Begone from our Lawn!” The images are layered and complex, and multiple rereadings will reveal charming details, such as the fissuring ice on the moat as candy and toys plummeting down.

This delightful parody is sure to elicit lots of giggles at Christmastime.

  •  

    Discuss the title and how it relates to the more familiar ’Twas the Night Before Christmas (aka A Visit from Saint Nicholas). Based on the cover, make predictions about the text.

  •  

    Examine the illustrations. Compare and contrast them with other picture books about Christmas.

  •  Make a list of examples of puns and wordplay found in the text. Add to the list with creations of your own.
  •  

    How is the title similar to or different from another book you know? (If necessary, familiarize yourself with the text and illustrations of the traditional ’Twas the Night Before Christmas (aka A Visit from Saint Nicholas). Go for a picture walk and note the similarities and differences between the two tales.

  •  

    After the story is read aloud, discuss how it uses wordplay to create a new story.

  •  

    With a partner, compare and contrast the traditional story with this version. Choose an appropriate graphic organizer to show your findings.

  • To use creativity
  • To use information