“Marguerite Godin would be happy if she never had to set foot outside her house ever again.”
The Canadian widow tells her children she’ll be fine by herself; she’s been looking forward to eating dinner and watching the Christmas specials “for days.” Her solitary suburban idyll is disturbed by the doorbell; she immediately imagines the Grim Reaper. “She’s not ready,” so it’s a good thing it’s just a dad whose car has become stuck in the snow. Though she keeps him and his family at arm’s length, she enjoys watching them celebrate as best they can in the car and finally even ventures outside with a tray of refreshments. It’s too late—they’ve been freed—but outside in the moonlight, “the cold air feels so good.” This lengthy, intimate, sometimes-morbid look at a transformative, end-of-life Christmas makes for a highly unusual picture book, but it works. Desjardins’ wry text masterfully conjures details that place young readers in Marguerite’s alien experience, and Blanchet’s flat, retro illustrations are a perfect complement. In both aesthetic and setting they evoke the mid-20th century, when Marguerite and her husband no doubt set up housekeeping. In one particularly funny, wordless image, Marguerite stands at the door, an impossibly long cord extending all the way down the hall from the dad’s unseen hand outside to the rotary phone hung on the wall.
Share with older children; it will give them a new understanding of Grandma. (Picture book. 6-10)