It’s a Golden Books Christmas with Donald Duck, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Winnie the Pooh and Babes in Toyland

(image courtesy Random House Kids)

So here’s something you may not know – Alaska only became a state of the USA in 1959. Making much of that fact, this lovely tale of Yogi and Boo Boo heading off to spend Christmas with Uncle Northman and Kate Kodiak, and their young cubs Yukon and Klondike, is full of references to the state’s geography (Kodiak Island), its state flower (Forget-Me-Nots) and the use of seaplanes to get anywhere. It’s also a story of Yogi saving Christmas with a pair of sunglasses and a can-do celebrity beat attitude that sees him, Boo Boo and Uncle Northman managing to get a tree home and decorated in time for Christmas Eve. And yes, Yogi does get to say those immortal words “Smarter than the average bear” which brings a smile to the face no matter what time of the year it is.

I have loved this story since I saw the cartoon way back when so finding the Golden Book rendition, which swaps out Mickey Mouse for Donald Duck, was a happy Ebay find. Even more so when I saw how well the writers captured not just the spirit of the tale but its key narrative markers, such as the hijinks that ensue when Chip ‘n’ Dale find their lovely snug fir tree chopped down for Donald’s Christmas and have some fun with a hapless, put-upon and ultimately wrongly-accused Pluto. It ends on a happy inclusive note that makes you sigh with warmhearted happiness but the lead-up is pure slapstick hilarity with Chip ‘n’ Dale putting the tree’s new lights and baubles to some very funny, unorthodox uses.

Winnie the Pooh is a delight. He is kind and sweet and loveable and nowhere is this more evident in the The Sweetest Christmas, in which everyone’s favourite “silly old bear”, faced with a snowy outside that will make present finding problematic, decides to see what lies inside that might be suitable for presents for his friends. He finds something alright but it’s very precious and special and will leave him at a hunny-challenged disadvantage; even so, he selflessly gives it up in the spirit of Christmas and is rewarded in the most loveliest and most wonderful of ways, reaffirming once again that it’s not what you give necessarily but the spirit in which it is given that matters the most.

Selflessness is something all of us aspire to, especially at Christmas, and in this wonderful story about making festive dreams come true, Huckleberry Hound, with the help of pals Yogi Bear and Jinks the cat manages to make the song “Jingle Bells” come alive for mice Pixie and Dixie who have never, ever ridden in a one-horse open sleigh. Not such an astounding omission for an Aussie like me since snow is non-existent at Christmas but for two North American Hanna-Barberan characters? Simply unforgivable! So Huckleberry sets out, with all kinds of hard work and creativity to give his mouse friends a chance to glide across the snow “as smooth as wind on ice!” on Christmas Day with Yogi acting as the most unorthodox but well-meaning of broom-accented horses!

I recently watched the film on which this book is based again, and it was nothing at all like I remembered. It was trippy, strange and a little weird, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite square with my memory of the story. Then I managed to get my hands on the Golden Book and discovered all my visuals and story cues came from the book! Interestingly, in book form I rather loved all the quirky stuff that made the movie an interesting experience, a reminder that books (yes even Golden Books) and films are two very different ways of telling a story. Even so, the moral is the same on both – love always win, even against determined evilness like Barnaby the villain and seeing Tom Tom the Piper’s Son and Mary Mary Quite Contrary finally get married and live happily ever after is as delightful as ever.

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