It was Christmas morning.
“Wow!” said Morris.
Great opening isn’t it? We’ve had Jess’s pick for the festive season. This is my favourite Christmas picture book.
We were given this book a few years ago by a friend who knows her books. It’s been out a good while (1975 – so pre-me! – and our copy looks like we’ve had it that long too). It isn’t well known here – sadly, we don’t stock it in the bookshop and I’ve never seen it in the library. But you can get it on Amazon though. Rosemary Wells is better known for the Max and Ruby stories – which we found after having read this.
Morris’s Disappearing Bag is a terrific example of how picture books can be about anything. Morris is the youngest of four rabbit siblings. They open their presents and everyone else gets amazing stuff – he just gets a bear. The others share their new gifts but won’t let Morris play with anything because he is too young, too little, too silly. Poor Morris. His parents try and cheer him up but it doesn’t help and he’s too sad to eat Christmas dinner (a feast of carrots). ][But then he spies an extra present under the tree. In it is a Disappearing Bag. Morris hops in. The others can’t find him (but can you spot him?):
Then they are amazed when he climbs out. They all want a turn with the bag so he lets them get in at the same time. And while they’re off doing whatever they’re doing inside he tries on Betty’s chemicals, Rose’s make up and Victor’s hockey equipment and generally has a marvellous time all round.
It’s such a fantastic idea, the Disappearing Bag – one of those crazy, original, out there ideas that works so well. The whole not being allowed to play with a sibling’s toy, whether you’re younger or not, will be familiar to many and I like that the Disappearing Bag means that everyone has an adventure – everyone is happy.
And you know, I think we’ve probably all wished for a Disappearing Bag on Christmas Day – either to disappear into ourselves, or to put the whole family in so we can have a bit of peace and quiet. It’s total genius.
As an aside, there’s a rather brilliant bunny portrait of The Birth of Venus in the dining room:
There also happens to be a version of this painting in Winnie Under the Sea by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul (OUP). I did a comparison of them with a copy of the original with Jess one cold afternoon:
Weeks later we were out and about in Cambridge and Jess, only 3 at the time, saw the picture on a tea towel or some such in a shop. ‘Look! It’s that Botticelli’ she shouted, much to the amazement of the lady next to us. ‘Snigger, more like Bottom Jelly. Or Chilly Bottom,’ announced Toby (the lady was less impressed about that). And so that is how we always refer to that magnificent Renaissance painter. Mr Bottom Jelly.
So there we are. A truly original picture book idea with a bit of art history thrown in on the side. Do track it down if you can.