In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dear Annie,

Ah, the Nutcracker!  Ah, Christmas!

Both my daughters are home now.  We trimmed the tree last night (complete with a cookie-cutter-shaped star you made circa 1982).  Then we read one of our many Christmas Eve books so that we can get through the rest of the huge pile tonight.  It was a perfect way to feel that family holiday time had started, while keeping one foot in my retail world.  The book is about matching a toy, a child, and a grown-up, with some lovely scenes in a toy store. 

The Story of Holly and Ivy
by Rumer Godden (pictures by Barbara Cooney) is probably the entire family's favorite.  Here's the beginning:
This is a story about wishing.  It is also about a doll and a little girl.  It begins with the doll.
Her name, of course, was Holly.
It could not have been anything else, for she was dressed for Christmas in a red dress, and red shoes, though her petticoat and socks were green.
Holly is placed in the window (note red-clad doll in center of illustration) and told by the other toys that "We must be sold today," Christmas Eve.  They all long for a home and the touch of children's hands.
( I feel right at home with this picture.  Last night I'd just been through a pretty intense day of last-minute shopping, with another coming up today.)

The story is full of longing: Ivy, an orphan in a city, announces she's going to spend Christmas with her grandmother, even though (as she's scoffingly reminded by Barnabas, another orphan) she is without relatives.  Ivy is sent to another orphanage for the holiday, but gets off her train at a small town.  She wanders through a Christmas Eve market, buying food, tea and a balloon.

We start following a local couple -- the husband is a policeman.  The wife is longing for something -- or someone.  She buys a Christmas tree and candles.  He goes to work, reminding her to have his breakfast ready when he finishes the night shift.  Ivy looks in their window and wants to live there.  First, though, she spends a night alone.  Holly goes unsold, despite the efforts of the store owner and his assistant Peter.  During the night, Ivy spots Holly through the store window, and both know they're destined for each other:
"My Christmas doll!"
"My Christmas girl!"
and they wish very hard.

Eventually the policeman finds Ivy (I'm leaving out a sub-plot here), who says she's staying at her grandmother's house, and leads him to his own home.
  Mr. Jones seemed rather surprised.  "Are you sure?" asked Mr. Jones.
   "Qu-quite sure," said Ivy [shivering from the cold].  "She has m-my breakfast ready."
   "Did you say . . . your breakfast?" asked Mr. Jones.
  "Of course," said Ivy, "L-look in at the w-window.  There," she told him.  "Th-there's my Ch-Christmas t-tree."
   Mr. Jones thought a moment.  Then: "Perhaps it is your Christmas tree," he said.
   "Sh-shall we kn-knock?" asked Ivy.  But, "You needn't knock," said Mr. Jones.  "You can come in."
As the girl and the grown-ups are realizing that they're getting their wishes, Peter takes Holly (part of omitted subplot) from the store and leaves her under the Joneses' tree, where Ivy finds her.  This all leads eventually to Ivy's adoption by the Joneses.  When the orphanage director visits to arrange the adoption, Ivy says, "Please tell Barnabas."

The end of the story recaps everyone's fulfilled wishes, concluding:
I told you it was a story about wishing.
So satisfying.

May wishes come true for you and yours and everyone reading on this Christmas Eve.

Much love,


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