CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 8 . . . .December 8, 2006
A Season for Miracles: Twelve Tales of Christmas. (Dear Canada).
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2006.
247 pp., cloth, $14.99.
Christmas stories, Canadian (English).
Children’s stories, Canadian (English).
Canadian fiction (English)-21st century.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Mary Thomas.
The “Dear Canada” books are historical novels, each of which covers a complete year in the life of some 12-to-16-year-old girl living in interesting times. (NB: All times are interesting, especially if they aren't our own.) The advantage of this format for the present collection is that each book necessarily covers a Christmas season. A Season fot Miracles is a collection of twelve of these.
The stories run from shore to shore and from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. Readers see Christmas from the point of view of the daughter of a Chinese immigrant worker from Vancouver befriended by a missionary and transplanted to the house of a wealthy Ontario family for the holiday and for an interview for entry to medical school. A young bride brought from France to Montreal finds herself with her husband among the Mohawks of Quebec. Children of homesteaders in Saskatchewan bring about a family reconciliation through the school's Christmas pageant, and a family divided by the fighting of the War of 1812 manages an unexpected reunion, enriched and enlivened by the children's staging their own version of the Christmas story.
Not surprisingly, since the authors of these episodes are all different, the girls speak in their own, very different, voices. The cream of Canadian writers for young people are represented here: Jean Little, Kit Pearson, Michelle Trottier, Gillian Chan, Sarah Ellis, Barbara Haworth-Attard, Julie Lawson, Karleen Bradford, Janet Lunn, Carol Matas, and Sharon Stewart to be precise. With the settings, styles, and epoques being so varied, the fact that all the stories have basically the same theme is almost obscured.
But not quite--basically they are all about Christmas, a situation which makes for a certain sameness in the tone. No one writes a real "downer" of a story based on Christmas--it just isn't done. On the other hand, why should it be? Christmas should be a time of good cheer, family, traditions (even if translated from far away), and love, and if it means that the collection is a bit indigestible when taken as a sugary whole, the fault is in you, dear Reader, and not in the collection. My advice? Space the stories out and enjoy the diversity in their sweetness! Honey, maple syrup, molasses,....
Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, and really does enjoy both Christmas and stories about it.
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