A wide variety of readers are sure to be spellbound by Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Chrismas — The Film, The Art, The Vision (Hyperion, $24.95). Written by Frank Thompson, this is a book that, for once, all the fans of a movie can sink their (vampire) teeth into. Grown-ups can bone up on the special effects featured in the film: There are beautifully illustrated descriptions of the building of armatures (the skeletons for the stop-motion characters); the sculpting, molding, casting, and painting of character-puppets; and the process that made the puppets appear to speak and sing. Children can moon over pictures of that wonderfully spectral dog, Zero, or squeal over song lyrics (included in full) like: ”Does it still have a foot? Let me see/Let me look/Is is rotted and covered with gook?” This truly sumptuous book is just the thing to teach us all to laugh at what goes bump in the night.
Burton’s own The Nightmare Before Christmas (Hyperion, $15.95) might be an even bigger find. Ostensibly a children’s book, it’s the sort of rhyming tale Dr. Seuss might have written — if he’d listened to lots of punk rock. Kids and kids at heart are going to flip for poems like: ”And Santa Claus’s laughter now sounded like groans/ And the jingling bells like chattering bones/And what to their wondering eyes should appear/But a coffin sleigh with skeleton deer.” Burton’s drawings are luscious: haunted Jack Skellington with his stitched-up mouth and empty eye sockets, ghosts about as scary as fingers wrapped in handkerchiefs, and a Santa who’s big, red, and terribly confused-looking.
Although Thompson’s book might start out in the grown-ups’ room and Burton’s in the children’s, it’s easy to imagine the big and the small, melancholy all, trading these two eerie treasures back and forth to see what they’ve missed. Or better yet, doing a cozy little group reading during the holidays. Say, on the night(mare) before Christmas.