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Keeping Holiday Paperback – July 22, 2008
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About the Author
Starr Meade served as the director of children’s ministries for ten years at her local church and taught Latin and Bible for eight years at a Christian school. She is a graduate of Arizona College of the Bible and has authored a number of books. Starr lives in Arizona with her husband, where she currently teaches homeschool students and is mother to three grown children and six grandchildren.
JUSTIN GERARD is an illustrator with Portland Studios. His work has been featured in Spectrum and Society of Illustrators. He is also a recipient of the IPPY Award for his illustrations in Beowulf Book One: Grendel the Ghastly. He lives in South Carolina.
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Keeping Holiday is written with elementary school children in mind. I think if my daughter were old enough to read this to her, I would have enjoyed the story better. The problem with allegory is that rather than communicating truths here or there, allegory forces the author to make more direct comparisons and carry them out through the whole story. This very often flattens the novel, which is why I believe allegory works better in short stories than full length novels. The exceptions of course are the Narnia books. But Meade is not able to pull it off as well as Lewis.
That said, I do think kids might enjoy this story. And with an adult to help tease out some of the meaning, it may create opportunities to talk about spiritual truth in a way that could be meaningful and memorable to a child.
I recommend parents read a book like this to a 2nd-5th grade student. I wouldn't recommend an adult read it on their own. I think you'll be bored.
When Dylan's parents tell Dylan and his cousin Clare they must pay close attention to what they see and hear in Holiday, they are puzzled. When they add the children might be called away for four days, they are mystified. They wait to learn more, but no further explanation is added.
As usual, their travels take them through miles of long traffic jams, but no one complains and tempers don't flare. Other motorists even smile and wave while they wait their turns to proceed. Caught up in the festive atmosphere, the youngsters anticipate their arrival where everything is "better than anywhere else," and they soon forget the parent's mysterious words.
When they arrive, the aroma of roasted meats, pies, and sugary sweets fill the air. Strings of twinkling street lights adorn quaint shops and promise Christmas magic. After they've settled into their hotel rooms, Clare finds an old black book in the dresser drawer and shows it to Dylan. He reads the title, "A Guide to Holiday for Visitors and Residents," and tells Clare it must be meant for them.
Inside the book they learn the history of the town of Holiday. They read how the town was once ruled by powerful bullies until a strong, kind king overthrew the tyrants and rescued the townspeople. Instead of building a thanksgiving monument, the townspeople transformed their restored city into a "world-renowned center of beauty and joy," where guests with temporary passes could visit four-days. For extended stays, visitors needed official authorization from the Founder.
The book also directed the youngsters to the information rack in the Holiday Visitors' Center to obtain temporary passes. While Dylan was at the center he asked where to find the Founder, and learned, "You don't find the Founder; he finds you. He's not just the Founder; he's the Finder too."
When the cousins find the small, white gate in back of the church, additional directions tell them to open the gate with their passes and walk down the winding path into the forest of majestic, evergreen trees where their life-changing quest begins. On their journey through the trees from the "forest of life," they meet trees that talk. If they cut off a small branch from one of these trees, they have "proof of life."
They also visit the "place of evil," where they learn that the Founder paid an enormous fine to grant them personalized passes. They also meet delightful Missy Mistletoe and learn why the Mistletoe was first known as the "plant of peace."
Next, they talk to the galaxy of stars in the night sky who tell them their job now is to announce who the "Founder is," where centuries before, one bright star pointed the way to the Founder. Add talking penguins and magical "Winterland Manufacturing, Inc." and this delightful story will enchant young and old alike.
Dylan and Clare's adventures lead them to insightful truths about the Founder of Holiday, with real-life examples of heavenly issues, and earthly choices. Where readers learn it's important to help others, act with kindness and forgiveness and pay back good for evil--and most important, to rejoice in and show respect to the Founder.
Mead's imaginative writing has been compared with C.S. Lewis and John Bunyan. When I finished reading the book I understood why. Although young readers can read the book alone, consider reading it aloud as a family. The books creative message will remind everyone of the real meaning of Christmas. Justin Gerard's well-done, black and white illustrations depict story scenes and characters and are sprinkled throughout the book.
Starr Meade's Christmas-themed narrative for young readers is destined to join other cherished Christian classics like the Narnia Chronicles, and Pilgrim's Progress. Meade blends fantasy and allegory together to tell the story of two young cousins, and their adventurous quest to experience the meaning of Christmas, and the Incarnation all year long. It has been years since I've read such an enjoyable, truth-centered fiction book. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com, or from [...]