This straightforward, heartfelt reminiscence recalls a Christmas season from the author’s childhood on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, a time when she needed a new winter coat and her younger brother needed snow boots.
When boxes of donated clothing arrive before Christmas, Virginia and her brother are the last to receive anything. Because their father is the Episcopal priest at the reservation, the children are trained to let others take precedence. A snotty rival of Virginia’s selects a fur coat that Virginia covets, and when that doesn’t suit, she later takes the plain cloth coat set aside for Virginia as well. But on Christmas Eve, two special boxes sent just for the priest’s children are set out for Virginia and her brother, containing a soft red coat and sturdy cowboy boots. The story unfolds in a linear, matter-of-fact way reminiscent of the writing of Laura Ingalls Wilder, with school and family scenes and a strong sense of the main character’s emotions and family ties. Realistic illustrations in watercolor and gouache capture the snowy, flat landscape, the simple schoolroom and the crowd of children each experiencing something different at the holiday events.
Virginia’s personality shines through in this poignant story that entertains and informs without recourse to stereotypes. (Picture book. 5-9)