MIM’S CHRISTMAS JAM by Andrea Davis Pinkney


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 4 - 9
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It’s 1915 and Pap is in New York City, working on the construction of the subway system. He earns good money as a sandhog, but it’s backbreaking, dangerous work. Meanwhile, his family in Pennsylvania is preparing for a lonely Christmas without him. Mim and the children plan the decorations and Mim makes her mythical “belly-hum jam,” a recipe that has been passed along in her family since the slave era. It is so named because it makes your belly sing with the main ingredients of family pride and love. Pap and his sandhog colleagues, Donovan, Gilletti, and Jones cannot expect time off for Christmas because their bosses, nicknamed “Mean and Evil,” will not allow it. But a jar of Mim’s special jam arrives on the day of Christmas Eve and Pap takes it to work to share with his friends. He gives some to his bosses, who are instantly infused with the spirit of Christmas and close the dig site for the holiday. Pap and the sandhogs arrive home in time for a joyous Christmas. The author’s text is a simple evocation of a warm and loving family separated by economic necessity. The dangers and difficulties of Pap’s work are not ignored, but the emphasis is on the love and commitment of all the family members. The story flows seamlessly between rural home-life, the bustling city, and the underground work site. The happy ending is just a bit too sweet, but is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the work. An introduction presents some factual information about the construction of the New York City subway system and the work of the sandhogs, who were mainly African-Americans and immigrants. A recipe for the jam is included. The illustrator’s signature scratchboard art of heavy black outline and strong acrylic colors adds visual clarity to the stark differences between the settings. The farm scenes are bright and full of lively color. In comparison, the underground scenes are in shades of brown, with the figures of the men lit only by work lights. The Pinkneys have again succeeded in presenting a lesser-known aspect of African-American history as a moving, sensitive story with which modern young readers can identify. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-201918-9
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Gulliver/Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001


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