Reviews for Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters
Horn Book Guide Reviews 1995
Celebrations on a Virginia plantation in 1859 are presented from two perspectives: that of the slaveholding family and that of the slaves. Descriptions of Christmas preparations fill the text, and colorful paintings reflect the period. Lurking beneath the gaiety, however, is fearful talk among the whites of black insurrectionists and the possibility of war, while the slaves speak of rumors of emancipation. Bib. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 1994 November
~ It's Christmas 1859 on a Virginia plantation. The family in the Big House and the slaves in the Quarters prepare for their celebrations. It is a happy time for everyone. Families are united. Feast are prepared. Singing and dancing are seen everywhere. The McKissacks (The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, 1994, etc.) have written a strangely romantic view of a pre-emancipation Christmas. Not that there isn't talk of freedom among the slaves, and of uprising among the whites; it's just not clear why these slaves are unhappy. They are obviously poorer than their masters, but, except for a New Year's Day separation of black family members, plantation life doesn't seem at all bad. Thompson's glowing pictures, depicting well-dressed, healthy slaves and their masters celebrating together do nothing to dispel this impression. Perhaps if the McKissacks had shown the contrast between Christmas and the rest of the year more clearly, rather than assuming that their readers would all understand the evils of slavery, their book might have been more successful. It's tricky to reclaim traditions from an unhappy past. The line between glorifying aspects of slave culture and seeming to ignore the brute evil of slavery is thin. Unfortunately, the McKissacks have stepped over. (Historical fiction/Picture book. 8-13) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1994 September #3
On a Virginia plantation in 1859, the slaves work hard to get the Big House ready for Christmas, and to prepare their own Quarters for the ``Big Times'' also. As they describe the goings-on during the weeks before Christmas as well as the actual rituals of the day, the McKissacks carefully and convincingly delineate the discrepancies between the two milieux-from the physical settings to the people's differing appreciations of the holiday's riches. The contrast is startling and stirring. This is a book of significant dimension and importance, and could be read at any time of year. The authors also add riddles, rhymes, recipes and copious notes. Rendered in acrylic on board, Thompson's remarkably realistic paintings are charged with emotion and masterfully tie together the book's diverse contents. Ages 8-13. (Oct.) Copyright 1994 Cahners Business Information.