So, my copy of that new book adaptation of A Charlie Brown Christmas arrived today, the one that Hallmark has listed at $65… although if you act quickly (i.e., Monday, the day you’re most likely reading this), you can probably still get one at 20% off.
Is it big? Well…
This is is compared to a Complete Peanuts volume, so yes, it is big.
Is it long? No, it’s basically five pop-up spreads, and it’s just the one’s you’d think: everyone jamming on stage, the Christmas tree lot, Linus dropping some Gospel, Charlie Brown with the sad little tree, and the triumphant, enhanced tree.
Are the pop-ups good? They’re good, they’re not amazing. Much of what they do is create layers of flat objects rather than some surprising 3-D objects. There is some motion — waving searchlights in the Christmas tree lot, the sad little tree drooping, but this isn’t one of those pop-up books where the dinosaur is coming right at you and snapping. Schulz put sadly few dinosaurs into the original TV special, and this book’s art (by the ever-sold Rich LaPierre) reflects that.
Speaking of that, is it true to the source material? Mostly. They keep the classic characters, and don’t add in Peppermint Patty and Marcie as we’ve seen in some adaptations… but Franklin does appear, and he wouldn’t be part of the Peanuts universe for years after the TV special existed.
Let’s get down to the fancier parts of this book: the lights and sound. Inside of the front cover, there’s a little flap, behind which there’s a three-position switch…
All three positions turn the light on whenever the book is open. The first one plays music from the special while it’s open. The second has the text of the book being read to you by a comforting masculine voice. The third turns off the sound altogether. But notice there is no “off” switch, which is a shame, because this book seems much more a display object than something meant to be read. You can have the book open, displaying a favorite tableau…but you’ll be running down the battery the whole time, unless you take the battery out (or never pull out that little paper tab that keeps the battery from making contact, but you cannot sample the sound and light until you do so.)
And that light isn’t all that impressive. It’s just not visible in a fully lit room, and because it’s all coming from a single set of lights at the spine, it tends not to illuminate things you’d ideally want lit (say, a spotlight on Linus as he gives his speech, lights on the Christmas tree), but has major objects backlit. Hallmark had a light-up Great Pumpkin book a few years back which used the same sort of light technology, but to better effect, simply due to having more appropriate scenes for it.
The narration is good, but it’s not technically impressive. It doesn’t detect what page you’re on and read that; it’s just a single recording of all the text that plays right through, with a brief silence between pages.
So is this a book that, if you leave it out on the coffee table, people will go “oooh, that’s cool!”? Yes, it is. But is it a book that so perfectly presents the story of A Charlie Brown Christmas so impressively and definitively that there will never be another adaptation again? No… and I’m glad for that! A Chanukah without a new book adaptation of A Charlie Brown Christmas would hardly be Chanukah at all!