TITLE: A Christmas Like Helen’s
AUTHOR: Natalie Kinsey Warnock
ILLUSTRATOR: Mary Azarian
PUBLISHED BY: Houghton Mifflin
A Christmas Like Helen’s tells of the late-1800’s farm Christmas in Vermont of Kinsey-Warnock’s grandmother Helen.
Firmly rooted in the tradition of their ancestors, Helen’s family stories by the stove of those who have come before: grandfather’s 6 week journey from Scotland, the other grandfather’s time in the Civil War (“He came home a changed man, but at least he came home.”), her own mother’s childhood in Scotland among castles and moors.
We see how the Christmas feast is being built all year round–it is not just one day, nor even one month of preparation:
You won’t be thinking of Christmas
when spring finally rolls around
and the sap rises in the trees,
but the syrup you’ll have
on your Christmas Breakfast
must be made now [in Spring].
The potatoes and corn for your Christmas feast
must be weeded all summer
and the apples for your Christmas Pies
must be picked in the fall.
Sometimes, the Christmases are filled with hardship — like the Christmas when Helen has scarlet fever, and her Father brings her to see the Christmas tree (above), thinking it will be her last Christmas ever. It wasn’t, thank goodness!
A loving portrait of family farm life, coupled with Azarian’s stunningly details woodcuts, make this book a lovely addition to any bookshelf, but especially for those who, like Helen and her family, have learned the seasons of the Earth, and prepare for Christmas all year long. (Check out their other collaboration, too: From Dawn Till Dusk.)