Polacco presents another offering in her series of nostalgic Christmas stories set in snowy Michigan of yesteryear, this time in the 1930s.
Trisha and her older brother, Richie, live with their schoolteacher mother and their grandfather on the family farm. Their grandmother has recently died, and a new housekeeper arrives to help, in more ways than just by doing housework. Richie resents the new addition to the household, but Kay Lamity is a whirlwind of a character who can charm a sad boy, whip up a dinner and make angels out of corn husks, quick as you can say smart-talkin’, larger-than-life folk hero. Why, that Kay Lamity can “stare down an armadilla while dancin’ on the back of a wild boar.” As the Christmas season unfolds, Richie tells his younger sister that Santa isn’t real, upsetting the girl and threatening to ruin Christmas. Kindly, Kay helps the children regain their belief in Santa and start to accept the death of their grandmother and the impending sale of the farm. Polacco’s distinctive illustrations are filled with the usual cozy kitchens, snowy farm scenes and appealing children, but it’s Kay Lamity who stands out as the shining star of this touching, longer story.
The story has humor, deeper meaning and a mystery as to Kay Lamity’s true identity. (Sharp-eyed readers will note that Kay bears a striking resemblance to Polacco’s photo on the jacket flap!) (Picture book. 5-8)