Just in case you haven’t enough Christmas books to keep you reading for a few more days, I’m offering a few more to read by the light of the Christmas tree.
The Money We’ll Save by Brock Cole is not your usual Christmas story. In fact, one might say it’s only peripherally about Christmas, but it’s great fun. In this story, Ma reluctantly sends Pa to the store to purchase only two eggs and a half pound of flour because “Christmas is not far off, and we must save every penny.” Pa holds out until presented with a bargain by the wily chicken man: buy a turkey poult to fatten up for Christmas. Pa buys it, of course, and Alfred the turkey causes all manner of trouble, as big birds that are kept in a nineteenth century NY tenement are wont to do. From eating way more than the promised table scraps to annoying the neighbors, Alfred is more trouble than he’s worth. They solve their problem in a creative and very subtly kind way, and my girls and I all sighed happy, satisfied smiles at the end of the story. Brock Cole writes a compelling and entertaining tale, and his illustrations are messy and wonderful in that watercolorish way. This is a good one. (Read more about it here at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.) (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011)
Really, Rumer Godden’s The Story of Holly and Ivy deserves its own post. How did I only recently learn of this book? (I learned about it when Sarah of SmallWorld Reads linked up an old Christmas post of hers to last week’s RAT, and for that I’ll be forever grateful!) My book isn’t the one pictured over there; instead, I borrowed an old, old, old copy from the library where I work. It’s a small-ish picture book (about the size of an I Can Read book, I guess) published by Viking Press and with illustrations by Adrienne Adams. I figure it’s out of print, but the one I linked to up there, with illustrations by Barbara Cooney, must surely be delightful. I was surprised that this isn’t a chapter book, although I understand from a note on the copyright page that it was first published as a story in Ladies’ Home Journal back in 1957. I guess it took me about thirty minutes to read it all to the girls (minus the time I had to console Lulu over the DLM bonking her on the eye with some miscellaneous toy and the time I had to keep the DLM somewhat occupied, although obviously I didn’t do a very good job of that). I suppose it’s just as well that it doesn’t have chapter breaks; I don’t think the girls would’ve let me quit reading it, nor would I have wanted to. I loved this story of a little girl named Ivy, an orphan and full of moxie, who takes her own life in hand with some surprising results. When Ivy is finally united with Holly, a doll surely fated to be hers, at the end of the story on Christmas Day (in the home of the couple who will become her adoptive parents, no less), I was teary-eyed. I have to hand it to this little story, too–it contains what I think might be one of the best Christmas lines I’ve read:
They did not know [. . .] that it is when shopping is over that Christmas begins. (38)
Unfortunately, based on this quote, Christmas has yet to begin around these parts. I still have lots of shopping to do. Uggh! But I think I agree. Anyway–this is a good one (maybe even a favorite!), and so I give it a Highly Recommended! (Wait! I knew I had read a recommendation for it somewhere else, and I found it–in the comments of this great post of Melissa Wiley’s: Best-Loved Doll Books.) If you haven’t read this one, don’t miss it.
I have long been a fan of Patricia Polacco, since my short tenure as an elementary librarian when I showed my classes one of those book videos of Pink and Say and it was all I could do not to cry at the end of it. However, I haven’t shared too many of her books with my girls because I find them somewhat tedious to read aloud due to the amount of detail and the frequency with which she writes in dialect. I think we’ve just about reached the point in our read-aloud experience here at the House of Hope that we can really get her stories, though. An Orange for Frankie is a story from Polacco‘s grandmother’s family about Polacco‘s great uncle Eddie. In the story, Eddie is a ten year old boy, the youngest Stowell boy in a family of nine children. They live in Locke Center, Michigan, and a train stop (depot?) is situated close by their home. Their mother regularly feeds the train engineer and whatever unofficial passengers the Lansing to Detroit train might bring by her home. In an act of kindness, Eddie gives one of the hobos something very dear to him, and at the end of the story his kindness is repaid ten-fold. There’s a lot going on in this story besides Eddie’s story. The father of the brood has gone by horse and buggy to Lansing to pick up their Christmas oranges, choice gifts which they use to decorate their mantel before they finally eat them. Because of the weather, the Stowells back home are in suspense: will Pa make it back home before Christmas? The Stowell clan exudes a warmth that almost puts the Waltons in the dark. My only quibble with this one is that this Southern girl ends up making the Michiganders sound like Alabamians, with my mispronunciations of their winderlights and my darlin’s. Of course, my girls don’t know the difference, but it makes it feel rather inauthentic to me. Anyway–a small quibble. This is a beautiful and tender story, and it makes me think of my own grandparents, who were thrilled to get an orange and some nuts for Christmas. Polacco’s trademark illustrations fairly sing. Highly Recommended. (Philomel, 2004)
This last book is one that I wish I’d had around when we studied Christmas in Russia for our last year’s Christmas around the World studies. The fact that it’s by one of my favorite juvenile historical fiction authors only made me snatch it off the library shelf that much quicker. Gloria Whelan’s The Miracle of Saint Nicholas isn’t about Saint Nicholas, as I expected, although certainly one might add it to a Saint Nicholas Day collection. Instead it’s about a Zeema, a village in post-communist Russia, and a little boy named Alexi, whose small act of faith brings about what the villagers see as a real miracle. After learning from his grandmother how Christmas in the village used to be celebrated before the soldiers came, he is determined to bring back their religious ceremonies and traditions. It turns out that the village has a few secrets of its own! I love how this book really captures, in a very simple way, the repression of communist control and the faith of the people. The note at the back of the book says that Judith Brown, the illustrator, is trained in iconography and that for these illustrations she used egg tempera to make them as icon-like as possible. I really, really like this story, especially for a Christmas around the World tale. (Bethlehem Books, 1997)
Whew! I really could go on and on and on with the Christmas read-alouds! But I will exercise some restraint (and besides, it’s time for me to start getting some kiddos ready for bed. . . ) and stop here. Just in case you need more inspiration, be sure to check out my Big, Huge Christmas Christmas Books Round-up, as well as Three Thinking Mothers where they’re posting about favorite Christmas books all week. Before you link up your read-aloud posts for the week (Christmas or not), I need to take care of a little business. First, a thank you: thank you to everyone who offered congratulations on the third anniversary of Read Aloud Thursday. Each one warmed my heart! The winner of the celebratory give-away is Lindsey of Jewels in My Crown. Congratulations! Lindsey has also recently started a dedicated book/homeschooling resource blog called Lindsey’s Reading Corner. I look forward to more great posts from Lindsey!