17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2001
This is such a gentle, old-fashioned little book that it is a small miracle it's still around. It's about Jamie, a mute boy who lives with his sisters and widowed father in the hollows of Appalachia. The boy feels like he can't do anything and isn't special in any way, until Christmastime, when a teacher offers him a chance to be a shepherd in the school Christmas pageant. This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him. But then the pageant is cancelled because of a blizzard, destroying his dream.
In the end, a poor, traveling couple appear. The woman is about to have a baby, and they are looking for any place, even a barn, to spend the night, but so far no one has had any room for them (Sound familiar?) Jamie's family gives them shelter, the woman has her baby, and finally Jamie gets his chance to be a shepherd -- he shows up in costume to bring the new baby a gift, and to speak his very first words. A Christmas miracle!
One of the things I love most about this book is the fact that Jamie is far from a perfect little boy, but the author obviously loves him and makes us love him and recognize that his anger and tantrums come from frustration over his handicap. No one yells at Jamie and tells him to behave. They find ways to help him behave. There is a Christian spirit of love and generosity coursing through Rebecca Caudill's portrait of this child.
An earlier reviewer was offended by how "unrealistic" the ending seemed. I don't think that's really true. Early in the book, Jamie's father talks to a doctor, who tells him that Jamie is physically capable of speaking, but he needs help learning to do so, help the family can not afford. Jamie's inability to speak seems to be more a matter of trauma (his mother died giving birth to him) than anything physical, and so it does not seem remotely unrealistic for him to be healed when something in his life gives him a sense of importance. He simply has to speak to this miraculous child!
But more than that, this is a Christmas story. And if we can't make room in a Christmas story for miracles, when can we?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2010
Many years ago, and I mean "many", I read this story, and stored it away in my memory. Some years later, this ragged and torn copy of the original edition was sent to me by an acquaintance, and I don't remember why. I do remember phoning her to thank her, and she said that she knew I would take care of this story.
As I was moving books around my personal library, I found this copy tucked in between a few other books. So, curious as I am, I picked it up and sat with it on a dreary sunless afternoon, one January.
The story of this family takes place in a rural area of the country where the names of places make them sound almost imaginary. However, if you were to check an atlas of the United States, you would find rural names of cities and towns speckled all over the map. There are names like Pine Mountain, Big Black Mountain, and Hurricane Gap, even Line Fork Creek. We aren't going to study about how these towns and places were named, but we are going to meet this special family of four, a father and his three children who have survived past the mother's death, shortly after the baby's birth, one cold November night.
Jamie is the baby, now six years old, and he's never spoken. His two sisters guide him in a lot of things, and his Father, he's the hero. He's the hero because he never gives up on Jamie. He has Jamie with him all the time, as he farms his property, feeds the animals, as he drives into town for supplies, as he cuts down overgrown trees. Always together, Father and child, Jamie helped his Dad. The two sisters did household chores, and tended to Jamie when the Dad asked them to.
Once Jamie is ready for school, difficulties arise, because Jamie doesn't talk and he has no way to get his point across. The father takes him to a doctor, and that seems of no help. So, the Father enrolls him in school, and even though Jamie doesn't talk, the teacher has him draw certain words and feelings. It's sort of a communication system. As the children in the class prepare for the Christmas play, to be performed at the church, Jamie is given the responsibility of being a shepherd. The Father asks one of the girls to sew a robe of many colors for Jamie, while he trims a broken limb from a tree and turns it into a shepherd's crook.
Jamie seems to be content "just being a shepherd"; he personalizes his role, and on the day when the play is to be performed, a blizzard hits the town, and all is cancelled. Still, Jamie sits in his shepherd's garb, waiting for his role to perform. Disappointed, Jamie is sad and disappointed because the show is cancelled.
Late that night, he and his father look out the window and see a couple, on foot, struggling, as they walk outside. When they come to the door, Jamie's Father makes the effort to invite them to stay the night in the barn, and provides warm blankets for them. You see, the couple had tried other homes, but no one had room for them to stay. That night, the Father is in the barn with the couple, late. When Jamie goes to see what is happening, he is startled, and runs back to get his shepherd's crook and robe. Wearing it, he runs back to the barn, carrying some things for the couple, a dime for the lady, an orange for the baby, and he hurries into the barn and says, "Here's a Christmas gift for the child" and something for you, he says to the woman.
Jamie is speaking, finally, and everyone feels blessed. So, you never know; someday, you may witness a Christmas Miracle in your own life.