15 December 2010

10 Days Before Christmas

The Christmas Book, edited by Harry Ballam and Phyllis Digby Morton
This is one of my finds from last March's library book sale; it was one I took out almost every year. A 1990 reproduction by Omni publishers of a 1947 British volume, this is a collection of half essays/half stories with liberal illustration and even some photographs in black-and-white of Christmas from a British perspective. There's an essay about that particularly British institution, the pantomime and also the kissing bunch, and in the occasional original essay written for the book, post-war rationing is referred to several times, especially in a small portion of the book that concentrates on Christmas food.

Traditionally, the "skin" between this world and the next was very thin at Christmastide, and sometimes otherworldly creatures crept through, hence the spirits in A Christmas Carol. Therefore three ghost stories are included in this volume, including a creepy offering about a student renting a house by Bram Stoker of Dracula fame and Charlotte Gilman's "The Yellow Wall-paper." Plus there is a section of Christmas games and riddles, and even word from the Christmas cynics. A great alternative Christmas read, especially for Anglophiles and history fans.

Christmas After All, Kathryn Lasky
One of the books I read every Christmas, one in the "Dear America" series. Although the ending is a bit too "happily ever after," the story of the Swift family's struggle against the Depression and their unselfish adoption of an orphaned cousin, a refugee from the Texas Dust Bowl, is lively and sobering by turns. Creative, thoughtful Minnie narrates, but the two most memorable characters are Willie Faye, the little girl from Heart's Bend, Texas, and Minnie's precocious younger brother Ozzie, an electronics genius. A memorable Christmas story for all ages.

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