Author: Ogden Nash
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Hardback: 128 pages
Publish Date: 1980
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus
In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn’t anybody’s joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn’t any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying ‘Boo’ at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
‘There isn’t any Santa Claus!’
Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.
Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
‘Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn’t any Santa Claus!’
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
‘There isn’t any, no there’s not!’
The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of ‘Don’t,’ and ‘Pretty Please.’
He howled, ‘I don’t know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!’
‘Jabez’ replied the angry saint,
‘It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!’
Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
‘Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t’
And suddenly he found he wasn’t!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.
All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.
–Custard and Company by Ogden Nash, pages 50-54
Ogden Nash, a popular American poet, was known for his droll humor and unconventional rhymes. Most of us have heard his poetry, through we may not know him as the author, as he’s often used in everyday conversations. A great example of this is Nash’s quick verse, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” from his book Reflections on Ice-Breaking.
Custard and Company by Ogden Nash is a collection of Nash’s poems and include “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” and “Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight,” two of Nash’s most beloved works. The book is also illustrated by Quentin Blake, who is best known for his collaboration with writer Roald Dahl.
Most of the poems in this book have a quality that appeals to children, both young and old, many of them mythical characters and animals as their focus. A few of the poems have children as the main characters, such as Jabez Dawes in the one quoted above, Belinda in the Custard poems and Isabel, an adventurous young girl who never screams or scurries, instead standing in the face of danger and winning.
Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry,
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.
-from “The Adventures of Isabel,” Custard and Company by Ogden Nash, page 88
Something surprising I found with many of these poems is that they are often clunky and terrible when read silently to yourself, but become playfully fun when read out loud, and even more so when read out loud to a child. I read a number of these to my oldest daughter, Sammi, age 16, who is a big Shel Silverstein fan. She was actually the one who picked up the similarity of the illustrations to those in Roald Dahl’s books. She will be very excited to find out she was right ;-)
Wonderfully fun and a book for the whole family, Custard and Company by Ogden Nash is a treasure of American Literary history. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
The video I’ve selected to accompany Custard and Company is a bit longer than usual. It is a 10 minute, mini-movie of “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” and makes use of HALO characters. It’s quite funny, but is a little slow to get started. It started out as a school project, for which I hope the creator received an A+ :-D Enjoy!
Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: | 20th century, American poetry, animal, Belinda, children's books, collection, Custard the Dragon, dragon, fantasy, fun, humor, illustrated, Isabel, Jabez Dawes, light poetry, Quentin Blake, Roald Dahl, Santa Claus, wordplay