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THE CHRISTMAS PROMISE by Susan Bartoletti

THE CHRISTMAS PROMISE

By Susan Bartoletti (Author) , David Christiana (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 - 8

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-590-98451-9
Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Intense, expressionistic illustrations give this spare tale of a Depression-era hobo and his daughter unusual depth of feeling. Riding the rails as late autumn turns to winter, searching for “someplace good,” the two pass through hobo jungles, soup kitchens, and a town jail. At last, a scratched hobo symbol for “kind lady” prompts them to stop at a house with a Christmas tree shining in its window. The lady there is kind indeed: “ ‘This is someplace good for you,’ ” says Poppa to the young narrator, promising to return as soon as he finds work. Christiana’s (The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat, p. 1120, etc.) art is quite astounding here, filling oversized pages with haunting images. Bleak blues and grays in the early spreads give way to warmer browns and reds as the holiday draws near, but the red-haired child remains downcast, surrounded by blocky, mottled backgrounds and insubstantial-looking figures—until the end, that is, when Poppa reappears, gifts in hand, just “before the first Christmas star came out.” A first-class heartwarmer, as poignant and joyful as Eve Bunting’s December (1997) or any of Cynthia Rylant’s holiday stories and made extra special by Christiana’s powerful illustrations. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)