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by Donald Hall ; illustrated by Mary Azarian

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-58148-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A brief, charming tale of one boy's Christmas.

The book takes place in 1940, before Christmas garnered such modern-day angst, and former poet laureate Hall (The Back Chamber, 2011, etc.) imagines a five-day holiday at his grandparents’ farm at Eagle Pond, N.H. Lush descriptions of his grandmother preparing home-cooked meals on a woodstove, listening to his grandfather recite poetry while milking cows in the frigid barn and making popcorn balls to hang on the church Christmas tree mingle with scenes of family and friends gathered to celebrate the holiday. Far from home and his ill mother, little Donnie thrives in the love and warmth that radiates from his extended family members as they share tales of their own youths or listen to the radio. Although a flush toilet and bathroom are installed next to the dining room, most use the five-hole outhouse when there's company. Hot-water bottles at the end of the bed are a must to drive away the deep cold. The church Christmas pageant is full of hymns, recitations and the reenactment of the birth of Jesus in the stable. These events connect Donnie to his mother and her memories of the same experiences. Christmas morning brings hand-knitted mittens, a scarf and a prized book of poetry. And yet, even in that simpler time, Donnie longs for even older days, when horses and sleighs ruled the snow-covered roads. The time flies by, and all too soon, Donnie must board the train back to his life in Connecticut. But will a Christmas storm make traveling to the train station impossible?

The sweet remembrances of a time gone by when life was a bit slower and Christmas was not so stressful.