Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twas the night before Christmas an' all t'ru de house...

James Rice, illustrator of A Cajun Night Before Christmas,prepared this for a Maison Blanche Christmas catalog cover. (c. 1988)

Cajun Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas an' all t'ru de house,
Dey don't a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo',
An' Mama pass de pepper t'ru de crack on de do'.

De Mama in de fireplace done roas' up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an' make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun' like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder.

I run like a rabbit to got to de do',
Trip over de dorg an' fall on de flo'.
As I look out de do'in de light o' de moon,
I t'ink, "Mahn, you crazy or got ol' too soon."

Cux dere on de by-you w'en I stretch ma'neck stiff,
Dere's eight alligator a pullin' de skiff.
An' a little fat drover wit' a long pole-ing stick,
I know r'at away got to be ole St.Nick.

Mo' fas'er an' fas'er de' gator dey came
He whistle an' holler an' call dem by name:
"Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an' Alcee'!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an'Renee'!

To de top o' de porch to de top o' de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an' be sho' you don' fall."
Like Tante Flo's cat t'ru de treetop he fly,
W'en de big ole houn' dorg come a run hisse's by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole 'gator clim!
Wit' de skiff full o' toy an' St. Nicklus behin'.
Den on top de porch roof it soun' like de hail,
W'en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit' a bam,
An' St.Nicklus fall an' sit on de yam.
"Sacre!" he axclaim, "Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma'se'f on dem red hot coal."

He got on his foots an' jump like de cat
Out to de flo' where he lan' wit' a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An' his clothes is all dirty wit' ashes an' soot.

A sack full o' playt'ing he t'row on his back,
He look like a burglar an' dass fo' a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon' t'ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit' snow-white chin whisker an' quiverin' belly,
He shook w'en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an' a shook o' his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don't got to be scared.
He don' do no talkin' gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt'ing in sock an' den turn wit' a jerk.

He put bot' his han' dere on top o' his head,
Cas' an eye on de chimney an' den he done said:
"Wit' all o' dat fire an' dem burnin' hot flame,
Me I ain' goin' back by de way dat I came."

So he run out de do' an, he clim' to de roof,
He ain' no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an' crack his big whip,
De' gator move down, An don' make one slip.

An' I hear him shout loud as a splashin' he go,
"Merry Christmas to all 'til I saw you some mo'!"

Link to buy it on

Link to 2 video's where they read 2 versions of this book...

Cajun Night Before Christmas

Howard Jacobs - editor,  Trosclair - author, James Rice - illustrator
Pelican Pub Co Inc, 1992 - 48 pages
"Forget Dancer, Prancer, Comet, and Vixen. . . . Good Clement, wherever he is, will not be gnashing his teeth." New York Times Book Review "Set in a Louisiana bayou and told in Cajun dialect-e chirren been nezzle/Good snug on de flo'-the poem has lively illustrations that perfectly suit the unique text." Horn Book More than twenty-five years after its first appearance, Cajun Night Before Christmas has become a modern classic that has sold more than 490,000 copies and has served as the model for Pelican's ongoing, best-selling Night Before Christmas series. The formula that started this success story is surprisingly simple: take the classic story of jolly old St. Nicholas, place it in a Louisiana bayou, dress Santa Claus in muskrat "from his head to his toes," pile his skiff high with toys, and hitch it to eight friendly alligators. The result is a delightful twist on an old and familiar tale. It is Christmas on the bayou. James Rice, in his long, distinguished career as an author and illustrator, has produced fifty-plus children's books, among them an addition to the Night Before Christmas series, Gullah Night Before Christmas. With more than a million and a half copies of his books in print, he ranks among the nation's best-selling creators of children's books."

Link to another reading, another accent--someone mentions it's a New Orleans one...
Link to publisher...(this book & the Cajun Nutcracker are on the Books of the Week list)
Link to one more version in Christmas lights w/Justin Wilson reading...
Link to more about the illustrator - James Rice...
Quick Bio of Illustrator...
James Rice was a children's book illustrator who lived in the South. He was also a painter and sculptor with advanced degrees in art, music and English. He was a former art professor in several Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas colleges and universities, and has published more than 60 titles through Pelican Publishing of Gretna, La. He was born February 10, 1934, and died May 30, 2004.
Link to Wiki - about the original, A Visit from St. Nicholas...
(note: also where you can read the entire poem, as it was writtin--in regular English, rather than Cajun)
Bio of Trosclair?? None--this is a mystery, maybe he's also the illustrator...will need more research - any Cajuns know who this is? My boys grew up with this book at Christmas time while we were living our years in Lafayette, LA--but never really heard much about the author or illustrator...
(now I've bought the same book for my Grandbaby Girls for Christmas, should I find out before they're old enough to ask their Mooma--am thinking Yes I should?! After we get past 'What's a Cajun' or 'What's an Alligator'...)
More fun...
Link to a Gingerbread House of the Cajun Night Before Christmas...

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