Twelve-year-old Donnie spends Christmas 1940 at his grandparents’ farm. His mother is recovering from surgery rapidly, so he and her parents don’t fret as they observe the holiday. They go to church two nights before Christmas, where preteens and early teens perform seasonal music and poems, and the little kids enact the Christmas story. Relatives come for the eve and the day—Grandma’s much-elder brother and Donnie’s mother’s unmarried sister—and a few friends join them for midday Christmas dinner. Stories are told, especially about the most recently departed, until they notice it’s snowing heavily. Will Donnie be able to take the train back to a delayed second Christmas at home? The ordinary, everyday routines of a small dairy farm, in which Donnie helps now Grandpa, now Grandma, surround the familiar holiday plot, and drawings by Caldecott Medalist Mary Azarian decorate sublimely. The little book is completely truthful, though poet and former poet-laureate Hall really never spent Christmas with his grandparents. It was the gift he never received, so he gives it to himself and, as an evergreen delight, to readers. --Ray Olson
About the Author
Donald Hall, who served as poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president.
Caldecott Medalist Mary Azarian is a consummate gardener and a skilled and original woodblock artist. Many of her prints are heavily influenced by her love of gardening, and her turn-of-the-century farmhouse is surrounded by gardens that reveal an artist's vision. Mary Azarian received the 1999 Caldecott Medal for SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. She lives, skis, and gardens in Vermont.