cover image The Knights Before Christmas

The Knights Before Christmas

Joan Holub, illus. by Scott Magoon. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9932-4

Holub and Magoon get medieval on Clement Clark Moore’s classic holiday poem. Three knights stand guard in their castle on Christmas Eve, defending against any invaders—including Santa. Santa lays siege (“dozens of sugarplums/ rained down on their heads”) and eventually gets his presents over the castle walls. The knights, believing they have defended their castle well, settle into their holiday celebrations (they even bring his “catapult,” a Christmas tree, inside in victory). It’s a great premise let down by a convoluted and forced execution. Magoon’s illustrations are vibrant and fun, but rampant punning and jokey asides, including snippets of reworked Christmas carol (“Go fah la la la la la far away!”), chip away at the story’s momentum. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Liza Pulitzer Voges, Eden Street Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)