When it comes to Christmas stories, there may be none more beloved than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It may seem like a bold move to alter such a classic, but that’s exactly what Jesse Kornbluth, an author and contributing editor to Vanity Fair and New York Magazine, and editor of cultural concierge, HeadButler.com, decided to do when he realized his daughter couldn’t quite cope with the 28,000-word, 1843 original. Kornbluth cut the book in half, and recruited Marin local Paige Peterson to illustrate the book, to “convey the feeling of London in 1843 without the formal diction and Victorian heaviness.”
Peterson had originally worked with Kornbluth when she asked him to edit a book she co-authored about Tiburon’s famous horse: Blackie: The Horse Who Stood Still, so she was thrilled to work with Kornbluth again on the timeless Christmas classic.
Her inspiration, she says, came from honoring the work of the book’s first illustrator, John Leech. “I went to the library and studied the illustrations in every 19th-century edition of A Christmas Carol,” she says. “Then I took pen to paper and began drawing. At home, I used watercolor, acrylic and oil paints, pens, markers and crayons to give texture and depth to these rough sketches. Some of the illustrations are dark and macabre, and some are raw and simple. Then, the light of awareness bursts forth, and the horror story ends in joy.”
The book was first released in 2011, but this year it’s being refreshed with color illustrations. “Pablo Picasso said, ‘Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions,’” Peterson explains. “The opportunity to freshen up a book that hasn’t been out of print since 1843 was unnerving and thrilling.”
Peterson lives part-time in New York and part-time in Belvedere, where she grew up. “Several of the illustrations were created on the picnic table in my garden there,” she says.
Using color inspired Peterson to get more creative with how some of the characters were represented. “I made one of the ghosts a powerful shapeshifter,” she says. “She is a beautiful, exotic woman who can morph into any form she feels would help Scrooge see the light.”
What ultimately attracted her to work on the project, Peterson says, beyond the opportunity to work again with Kornbluth, was the enduring appeal of the story. “It’s about forgiveness,” she says. “The possibility of change. Love.” Like most of us, she associates the story with personal Christmas memories. “My children were actors in a production of A Christmas Carol in New York City. I loved the costumes and the message of enlightenment,” she recalls. Now, she’s bringing this timeless story to life again, in a beautiful way that will help it be enjoyed for generations to come.
For more on Marin:
- What’s New In Town This November: Mill Valley’s Paseo Bistro, Crepes at the Lumber Yard, Plus More New Bay Area Openings
- The ICB’s Beloved Winter Open Studios Returns This December, Showcasing the Bay Area’s Most Talented Artists
- 30 Things to Do This November: See Camelot at Mountain Play, a Banksy Exhibit, Patton Oswalt Live and More
Jessica Gliddon is the Senior Digital Editor for Make It Better Media Group. An international writer and editor, she has worked on publications in the UK, Dubai and Cape Town. She is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, and is the former editor of Abu Dhabi’s airline magazine, Etihad Inflight. When she’s not checking out the latest exhibit at SFMOMA or searching out the best places to eat and drink near her home in San Francisco, she volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.