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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Nice Christmas Story if You Ignore Rhyme Crimes

The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas
Written by Ellis Paul and illustrated by Scott Brundage
Albert Whitman & Co., 2015
Ages 4-8  

In “The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas” the Johnsons inspire a neighborhood competition on who has the best Christmas lights. The decorations get brighter and gaudier until Christmas Block is famous and draws visitors every year.

Finally, one year Jimmy Johnson switches a switch and the lights go out in the entire town. The blackout spreads wider and wider until it covers the world. Everyone on Christmas Block stands heartbroken until Missy Johnson looks up in the sky and cries out about the beauty of the stars. 

Countless faces smile in awe at the night sky. They remember that one star guided three kings on the first Christmas night. They wonder if maybe Christmas can be neon free. The next year the neighbors on Christmas Block don't put up any decorations. Instead, they light a candle on a rock and gather around to sing Christmas carols. 

This is an inspiring Christmas story, but unfortunately the telling of the story falls a little short. It is told in rhyme and four-line stanzas, but the book is riddled with rhyme crimes. The rhyme scheme is inconsistent, there is no regular meter, slant rhyme or almost rhyme is used too often, and awkward word choice and inverted syntax are common.

The colorful full-page illustrations are lovely and vibrant. Expressive facial expressions amp up the emotional power of the story.

If you can ignore the book’s rhyme crimes, this would make a great Christmas gift for a young child.

About the Author and Illustrator:

Ellis Paul is an award-winning folk singer-songwriter.  He has released eighteen albums, including his most recent album for adults, "Chasing Beauty." His children’s albums are "The Dragonfly Races" and "The Hero in You," which was adapted into a children’s book. “The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas” is based on a song he wrote for his holiday album, "City of Silver Dreams." Visit him at

Scott Brundage is an award-winning illustrator whose works have appeared in major newspapers and magazines throughout the United States. This is his first picture book. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and dog. His website is


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