Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be
written by John Harris, illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Interest Level: Grades K-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.
BLURB: It is November 1857 in
Savannah, Georgia, and the heat is stifling. Choir director James Lord
Pierpont is busy writing a song for the children of the church to
perform to usher in the holiday season. He is also worried. Many
townspeople are angry because the congregation does not believe in
slavery, and someone has thrown a brick through one of the church
windows. As Mr. Pierpont sweeps up the glass from the broken window,
he recalls his own Boston childhood, the sound of sleigh bells, and the
fun of riding in a sleigh through the snow. Suddenly he gets an idea. A
few days later - with the happy sounds of children singing and jingling
bells and bags of "snow" - Mr. Pierpont introduces the delighted
churchgoers to the charms of a northern Christmas!
I enjoyed reading this book about the author's fictionalized account of the writing of the song of Jingle Bells. The song is well-known and well-loved, but this is the first time I've read about how the song might have come about. The author explains in the notes at the end, the reasons for his fictionalizing the story. Apparently the exact origins of the song are unknown. All that is known for sure is that James L. Pierpont was the writer. I liked the idea presented in this book, that the song was written for members of the Unitarian Church who had never experienced snow. The 'recreation' of snow at the end was a fun touch, although the first thing I thought when I saw that picture was, "That's going to take forever to clean up!" Children won't think twice about that however.
The gorgeous illustrations compliment the text nicely. The size of the illustrations and text make the book a good one for sharing. I'll be interested to see how the students react to it.