CM . . . . Volume XX Number 18 . . . . January 10, 2014
Nimbus Publishing has decided to reissue five of their successful Christmas picture books, along with two books from Charlottetown publisher Acorn Press, in this Christmas anthology. Five of the titles included have already been reviewed in issues of CM: Gadzooks: The Christmas Goose; A Christmas Doll House; A Bluenose Twelve Days of Christmas; A Forest for Christmas; The True Meaning of Crumbfest. Because neither Snow for Christmas (Acorn, 2010) or Love from Katie (Nimbus, 1999) have been reviewed by CM, they are addressed below.
As a book, this treasury is outwardly very attractive. The cover is colourful and festive. The seven stories included are of good quality and cover a variety of styles, touching on some experiences that are unique to the Maritimes, and are sweetly sentimental.
Interleaved between the stories are some Christmasy poems. They are all from before the First World War-and, in the case of Louisa May Alcott's poem, closer to the mid-nineteenth century-and I suspect that they were chosen at least in part because, since they are no longer covered by copyright, the publisher did not have to obtain permission-or pay royalties-for their use. Unfortunately for the reader, some references in the poetry are obscure, even to an adult. For example, "Christmas Conversion" by Jean Blewett c.1906 (p. 25) refers to how smells of Christmas cooking prompt a boy to better behaviour and includes the lines "[I'll] Never let Ma think it's spellings / When it's only Robin Hood," which I can only interpret to mean that the boy resolves not let Ma think he's studying spelling when he's really reading a Robin Hood adventure. And while I know that, in the later lines "When she chops the spice an' raisins, / With the peels an' Northern Spies," the peels are candied peels and Northern Spies are a variety of apple, I doubt a child would.
In addition to the question of their appropriateness, the poems have been carelessly typeset and proofread. Thus, in "Christmas Eve" by Madison Julius Cawein, c.1906 (p. 67), a multi-stanza poem in which the last line of a stanza usually repeats the preceding line, the last two lines of the third stanza have been pushed to the second page, and no space is allowed before the fourth begins. This breaks up the rhyme scheme of both stanzas. Worse, while the fact that the final verse of "The Bluenose Twelve Days of Christmas" has been centred on the page when the other verses are left justified merely offends the eye, the addition of an illustration to "A Christmas Dollhouse" (on the bottom right corner of page 21) has resulted in several words from each of the last four lines of the text being missing or obscured.
Doretta Groenendyk's Snow for Christmas, originally published by Acorn Press in 2010, is a little jewel. This is the simple story of an extended family gathering on Christmas Eve. When asked what he wants for Christmas, a boy responds, "snow." This response sparks a flood of reminiscences from the family, each with a colourful, joyful illustration in the original. At the conclusion, when asked why he wished for snow, the boy responds, "because snow brings stories." Note that, in the stand-alone version, you get a book full of Groenendyk's beautiful illustrations. In this "treasury", you get only five.
Fourteen years after its first publication, Love From Katie, which was written by Paddy Muir and illustrated by Kathy R. Kaulbach, and which tells the story of the Christmas tree sent from Nova Scotia to the city of Boston, is considered a classic. Through Katie's eyes, readers see the care with which this special tree is selected and sent to Boston each year to commemorate the help that the New England states rendered to Halifax at the time of the 1917 Halifax Explosion. In this story, Katie adds her own special ornament to the tree selected and carefully sent. The ornament, when found, causes a stir in the Boston community, with the result that Katie travels to Boston to visit her grandfather and take part in the ceremony for lighting the tree. Love From Katie, as a commemoration and historical note, is a pleasant way to touch on a little history. The illustrations are colourful and pleasant.
A Maritime Christmas Treasury includes seven stories of good quality. In the end, however-although the poetry is, in my opinion, a less desirable addition, and although I wish that Nimbus Press had taken more care in the book's production, to make sure that this "treasury" was perfection-the quality of the seven stories in A Maritime Christmas Treasury earns the book 3½ out of 4 stars. (Remember, though, that you get more illustrations per story if you buy the books in their original format.)
Rebecca King is a Library Support Specialist with the Halifax Regional School Board in Halifax, NS.
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