It is unlikely that I could ever over exaggerate the significance Tomie de Paola has had on my children’s early years of reading. For family and humor, we have read Tom, for silliness we visit Strega Nona and Big Anthony, and for culture and language, we love Tony’s Bread and Days of the Blackbird. However, Jingle the Christmas Clown is new to us this year. I am reading it with G for the first time. He has chosen it on his own to be our book of the week. We must have read it ten or twelve times this week alone. Funny, because flipping through it at the library I wasn’t all that impressed. Isn’t it interesting how a book often expresses its magic only once you read it with your little one?
Not only has G expanded his Italian (I have caught him greeting me with a Buon Natale, and addressing one of his stuffed buddies as bambino mio), but has completely fallen in love with the book’s characters. Whether it is because of the funny, frenetic monkeys or the baby animals’ saddened eyes, G continues to pay more attention to the illustrations and details in the text with each reading.
Unable to perform for the nearly abandoned Italian village, il circo piccolo– the little circus- moves on to the next town, leaving Jingle and the baby animals to rest with the elderly citizens. While the ending miracle seems a bit trite, G smiles every time. The beauty of the little tale is in its spirit of giving. As the vecchietti– the “old-timers”- brighten at Jingle’s gift of Christmas, the real miracle of the story happens back in the middle of the book.
Now Jingle began to feel sorrier for the villagers than for himself and the baby animals.
This line alone made Tomie de Paola’s story of joy and giving well worth multiple readings….at least for G. I love sharing stories that demonstrate kindness and empathy, especially toward others so dissimilar on the surface.
Included is a recipe for stelline d’oro- golden star cookies, which are part of the final miracle. The recipe was created by PBS’s Mary Ann Esposito, host of Ciao Italia. This basic sugar cookie recipe has the extra delight of orange juice mixed in the dough as well as in the icing.