If your idea of a good Christmas story is the umpteenth airing of It's a Wonderful Life, it's time to scout out new material. Publishers are working as hard as Christmas elves this season, turning out new selections that range from memorable to charming, from inspirational to tear-jerking. So prepare yourself with a box of Kleenex, a cup of hot chocolate, a roaring fire and an ample dose of seasonal spirit. These Christmas books are sure to remind you that there's more to the holiday than wrapping paper and fruitcake.
It's Christmas in Mitford, Jan Karon's beloved fictional community in the North Carolina mountains. The Mitford Snowmen finds the merchants of Mitford's Main Street competing in a snowman contest. But who will win? Who's the contest judge? And what's the prize, anyway? Karon's sweet and simple tale is paired with winning illustrations in a pocket-sized book that would make an ideal stocking stuffer.
As the holidays approach, Claire's family is in its usual state of hectic activity. First come the Hanukkah celebrations from Claire's Jewish heritage, and next are the Christmas traditions of husband Paul's Catholic family. Although their children seem to take the blending of faiths in stride, Claire wonders if her family has made wise choices about religion. When her son becomes seriously ill, the young mother's doubts are amplified. In Holiday Miracles, award-winning writer Ellyn Bache crafts a thoughtful and touching portrait of the dilemmas facing interfaith families - and of the bonds that ultimately prevail.
In Christmas in Plains former President Jimmy Carter carefully weaves his way through childhood Christmases on the family farm in southwest Georgia. The book gives a deep sense of the tradition Christmas holds in Carter's life. We watch as a young Jimmy and his father tromp through the woods in search of the wild red cedar that will make the perfect Christmas tree. We feel a bit like we're looking through a paned-glass window as Jimmy and his siblings prepare quarts of homemade eggnog. Illustrated by Carter's daughter Amy, Christmas in Plains is a charming reminder of how the holiday was celebrated in simpler times.
One Last Christmas Gift
Can a chance encounter change a person's life? Donna VanLiere tries to convince us that it can in The Christmas Shoes, her heart-tugging expansion on a song of the same title. You'll want that box of tissues in close range for this book, which should have even Scrooge himself in tears. With his mother near death from cancer, eight-year-old Nathan goes shopping for her final Christmas present and meets a wealthy, prominent attorney who seems to have forgotten what's truly important in life. VanLiere shows a capable hand as she takes a tear-jerking concept and creates an inspiring Christmas story.
Hope and Healing
For 12-year-old Rob Henderson, life is good, if uneventful. Growing up in rural Oregon in the 1950s, Rob helps his father tend the peach, apple and cherry trees that surround the family home. But the youngster finds his idyllic life shattered when a Christmas Eve accident leaves his father in a coma. Christmas of the Cherry Snow by Richard M. Siddoway is a Christmas story with special relevance in these uncertain times. In this tender coming-of-age story, we watch as Rob learns to cope with grief and fear. With its message of love, hope and healing, Christmas of the Cherry Snow will appeal to readers of all ages. Copyright 2001 BookPage Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 October #2
Two couples find their lives transformed by a Christmas gift in VanLiere's debut novel, a gooey holiday parable that leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of tear-jerking moments. Robert Layton is an ambitious lawyer who sacrifices his youthful idealism to become a partner and specialize in bankruptcy law. His ambition backfires, though, when his wife, Kate, announces that she wants a divorce from her often absent husband, throwing family life into chaos right before the holidays. Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks, another couple anticipates impending tragedy as young mechanic Robert Andrews tries to prepare his family for the coming death of his attractive wife, Maggie, from ovarian cancer. The two families' lives critically intersect when Layton goes Christmas shopping and encounters Andrews's young son, Nathan, trying to buy a pair of shoes for his mother as a going-away present. When the hard-hearted lawyer sees that the boy is short of cash, he ponies up for the purchase. The transformation that follows makes for a heartwarming story, and VanLiere writes some affecting family scenes that contrast the material poverty of the Andrewses with the spiritual poverty of the Laytons. But the story's beauty is marred by the author's nonstop holiday clichés in both assorted characters and passages of decidedly preachy prose. (Nov.) Forecast: This novel was inspired by a song, last Christmas's eponymous surprise hit by a group called NewSong. Written by the wife of the group's manager, the book will be heavily promoted this season, with NewSong embarking on a 20-city author tour. Expect brisk sales particularly in Christian markets, where the song first made its mark. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. #