In Watson’s (Shooting Stars and Satellites at Gramma’s House, 2015, etc.) children’s book, two boys recount holidays spent with Gramma.
Ethan and Cole may forget their small, day-to-day activities, but they’ll always remember their grandmother’s holiday traditions. Immediately following a Thanksgiving meal, their family cut down a Christmas tree in the nearby apple orchard. The family decorated the tree with paper cutouts and freshly baked gingerbread men. A few days before Christmas day, Gramma baked a cake that looked and tasted better than any other cake that the family ate during the year; Ethan and Cole embellished it with sprinkles and candies, and Gramma placed a large candle in the cake’s center. On Christmas Eve, the family sang carols and read about Jesus’ birth. Afterward, Gramma led the family in a call-and-response at the table, with the cake lit, to celebrate both love and the birth of Jesus: “ ‘Whose birthday is it?’ Gramma asks. And we all answer ‘Jesus.’ ‘Who is Jesus?’ she asks. ‘A great teacher,’ we answer.” After eating, the family gave gifts that symbolized their love for one another. Watson’s book offers a realistic portrayal of an upper-middle-class family’s holiday traditions. The narrative voice of the two grandchildren is, by turns, childlike, informative, and retrospective. The book motions toward Christianity with the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but the family ultimately seems to celebrate a secularized version of Jesus as “a great teacher” of love. That said, the book may fall short of getting across its holiday feeling to a nonreligious audience. Like many children’s holiday books, this one attempts to capture the magic of the season by detailing and illustrating the particulars of merry-making. As such, it offers a good-natured, if heavy-handed, message that children should be taught love by upholding traditions.
An enthusiastic holiday book for young readers that encourages moral growth and family values.