CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 8 . . . .December 8, 2006
A Clever Beatrice Christmas.
Margaret Willey. Illustrated by Heather M. Solomon.
New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster Canada), 2006.
40 pp., cloth, $23.50.
Santa Claus-Juvenile fiction.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Myra Junyk.
“Have you yourself ever seen Pére Noël?” Antoinette asked.
“He comes after midnight,” Beatrice explained, “When children are snug in their beds. But late in the night I have sometimes heard the ringing of the bells on his sleigh!” Rollo skated away to think about this.
When he came back he said, “There are many sleighs in the village with bells on them that travel at night, yes? Couldn’t you have heard one of them and thought it was Pére Noël’s?”
“Oh, but I am quite sure it was Pére Noël’s!” Beatrice insisted.
“How could you be sure?” asked Renè.
Beatrice thought a moment, and then announced, “On Christmas Day I will bring you a bell from Pére Noël’s very own sleigh!”
In this beautifully written Christmas story from the Clever Beatrice series, Margaret Willey has once again taken us into the world of the Canadian far north where snow is abundant, lumbering is the work of fathers, traditions are valued and children are awaiting the coming of Pére Noël at Christmas.
As Beatrice and her mother journey to the village store pulling an empty sled to pick up supplies needed to make the special Christmas cake, the Bûche de Noël, she meets Antoinette and her two cousins, René and Rollo. They have just arrived from Montreal so that their fathers can work at the lumber camp. Beatrice does not have her skates but is soon being pulled by the children as they talk about their questions. The children have their doubts about Pére Noël’s existence. In order to prove that he exists, Clever Beatrice promises to bring the children an actual bell from his sleigh!
Beatrice’s mother invites all the children home to help her with the decoration of the Bûche de Noël - a cake covered with chocolate frosting to make it look like an actual log! The next day, Beatrice and her mother search the woods for a Christmas tree, and they once again encounter the children. Now they want to know how Pére Noël keeps warm. Beatrice explains that he has a heavy winter cape. She promises to bring them a button off his cape.
Soon it is Christmas Eve, and the celebrations begin. The children have one last question of Beatrice – how can you be sure that the man on the sleigh with the cape really is Pére Noël? She promises that she will bring them a curl from his actual beard.
At home on Christmas Eve, Beatrice cannot sleep while waiting for Pére Noël so that she can get proof of his existence. Will she see him? Will she be able to convince her friends that he really exists? What will Clever Beatrice get for Christmas? Clever Beatrice is an endearing character who is quite convinced of her ideas. She lives alone with her mother in a cabin in the far north of Canada, but they are surrounded by friends and neighbours who help them. One example is Monsieur Le Pain who drives them home after Christmas Eve celebrations. Beatrice has not lost her childhood innocence and her belief in Pére Noël. Her forthright approach to life makes her a very appealing character! Her determination to prove that Pére Noël actually exists shows her determination and her friendship. She will also stop at nothing to get her proof!
The illustrations are amazing! Beatrice is a wild-haired young girl with bright red cheeks. Her enthusiasm and love of life radiate from the page. The remote lumber camp in the far north of Canada is brought to life with its rustic dress and quaint cabins. Drying herbs hang from the rafters, and popcorn wreaths adorn the small but well loved Christmas tree!
All in all, A Clever Beatrice Christmas evokes a simpler and gentler time in our history when traditions were valued and beautifully preserved. It was a time when children believed in Pére Noël!
Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.
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