Most helpful positive review
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A delightful feeling of Christmas past.
on November 11, 2010
In some Christmas books, they are written as fairy tales, to entertain and keep young minds entranced, with characters and situations that make for happy endings. But with this particular new book, from the talented and creative mind of Lidia Bastianich, you have a true tale. A true tale of a harder life that some people had to live during more difficult times, but told in such an endearing way, that her message of love and family comes shining through.
This hardcover, 9"x11", 26 page tale of Christmas past, will enchant the little ones with how simple acts of love and the the true spirit of Christmas, brought joy to Lidia as a child. And now, as a grandmother herself, she brought the same happiness to her grandchildren. The pictures are large with generous use of soft, pastel-like colors, with words that even a little one could read.
It is a delightfully written story of how the Christmases in Lidia's childhood were celebrated; not with running around and buying and spending and stressing, as we tend to do in this present world, but in simpler more cherished time of understanding the essence of Christmas; in coming together as family and finding the simple stuffs around us to prepare for the birth of our Lord.
Joining together with artist Laura Logan, both pen and picture tell the story of how Lidia, her parents, her grandparents, and her brother, spent the Christmas season when she was a child, growing up during more sparse times. But times in which the simplicities of life were the most endearing. We join Lidia as she is recounting these stories to her own grandchildren, and the lesson and impact such closeness imparts to young children as the older generation passes on the memories of a era gone by and the joy that it brought to them.
Instead of the luxury of a big Christmas tree, she tells of a small juniper bush that held little blue berries on its branches, and was bedecked with homemade cookie wreaths and tangerines and pears and apples and figs and bay leaves and such, with ribbons to tie those special decorations. Candy was also placed on the bush but candy was quite a treat in those days, and whenever she and her brother would eat one of the candies, they would place small pebbles in the wrapper and place them back on the bush, so that no one would notice.
In telling this story to the children, they too wanted to have that same type of Christmas celebration, and in the earnestness that only children can evoke, carried out the same tradition through the same actions.
A gifted artist, Laura Logan has created darling caricatures of Lidia and her family, especially her grandchildren, and with color and imagination, brought the scenes to the pages of this book. As her grandchildren will someday cherish, this was a wonderful and touching way of being entwined in their grandmother's love and life.
At the end of the story, there is a grand caricatiure photo of the Bastianich family, including Lidia's mother, Erminia, along with Lidia's children, Tanya and her husband, and son Joseph and his wife, along with the grandchildren, gathered around the tree and fireplace, feeling once more the joy of her Christmas past.
Near the end, the book contains the recipes that make for a simple, yet memorable celebration such as Fruit Tea, Brutti Ma Buoni cookies, Fregolata (Cookie Crumbles), Crostoli (Fried Ribbon Cookies), Pignoli (Amaretii con Pignoli; these are delicious!), Biscotti ai Demi di Sesamo (Sesame Cookies), Crostata (Fruit Jam or Chocolate Tartlet Cookies), Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, PB & J Cookies, Angel Food Cupcakes, Simple Sugar Cookies, Almond Apricot Butter Cookies, Almond Stuffed Figs, Chocolate Star Cookies, Royal Icing, and Palacinkes.
The last 2 pages of this wonderful book is called "Decorating the Tree" which was a short little essay of sorts desribing how the Christmas tree (or bush!) can be decorated by finding the right ribbons and fruits, and how to use them to bring that memory to life.
This reminded me very much of the books I read in my childhood, which made me want to read them over and over again because of how warm and happy they made me feel. It also reminds me of times shared with my own grandparents and the stories they told; those memories are priceless to me. Yes, I am very much in awe of what Lidia does, and the talent that she has, but one would be hardpressed to deny the delight that such a simple story can bring to the heart. Peace.