Lizs Book Snuggery

Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

By Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban


Maybe the only way you may remember this classic Christmas tale of animals that reflect the giving spirit of O’Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi”, is through Jim Henson’s Muppet version. It too captured in word and song the husband/wife team of Russell and Lillian Hoban and their story of these endearing wintry animal inhabitants of Frogtown Hollow struggling to make ends meet before Christmas.

And for the fatherless Emmet and his mother who takes in wash that is soaped and cleaned in a wash tub, these are hard times indeed. Yet there is a sturdy hardiness and cheer about these animal folk who could teach us a thing or two about resilience in the face of deprivation.

If this picture book sounds like a downer, it’s anything BUT!! Emmet uncomplainingly rows in his little rowboat, in hat and scarf tied tight, up and down the river gathering laundry for his mother to wash. He hauls water, chops firewood, and goes out with his dad’s tool chest determined to find the odd job to help out at home. Emmet is the soul of tenacity when he hears that The Merchants’ Association is putting on a talent show with a $50 prize!

Gathering pals Wendell Coon, Harvey Muskrat and Charlie Beaver who individually can play a kazoo, blow on a jug and strum a cigar-box banjo, he’s full of hope. What’s missing is a WASH TUB bass! Guess who has the wash tub that Emmet borrows and puts a HOLE in for a chance to win the prize and gift mom with the piano he dreams of giving her? And mom has to sell Emmet’s tool box to give him..well, you get the picture. Mom is determined to give her Emmet the gleaming guitar with mother-of-pearl inlays he longs for in the store window.

Impossible? Success in life often involves sacrifice the Hoban’s tale tells us and our dreams may come true in very unexpected ways. The important thing this rich story imparts is the ageless truth that love, friendship and community are the real Christmas gifts. They are the glue that binds us together AND sustains us when the times and our lives become difficult. And never giving up on hope and the tenacity that fuels our dreams that make life bearable is another. I’d say if you can get that message across AND entertain in a picture book that lasts, it’s a classic!

Please share this classic picture book and its comfy message with your young ones this Christmas. We, and they, need to hear it again and again and again!!

Here’s the complete version of The Muppet 1977 made for TV movie.

In the words of Emmet’s mom, “Emmet, that’s about the nicest present anybody ever TRIED to give me.”



Watch Emmet Here! //

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