Friday, December 15, 2006

Two Christmas Books by Ruth Sawyer

Because our bookshelves are groaning, I have to keep my collection of Christmas books in a large plastic bin. Opening the book bin each holiday season is something of a special occasion, like greeting long-lost friends!

I have chosen two of my lesser-known favorites to tell you about.

Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer (who also wrote This Way to Christmas, which is mentioned below)

This is a charming book, especially for girls up to about age 10 or 12. It is out of print, but used copies are not hard to find. Here is the description from the cover:

"Eight-going on nine-year-old Maggie Rose, who was born on the night before Christmas and named after a real live princess, is one of "those Bunkers," a lazy and shiftless family who live in a dilapidated shack on the wrong side of the Point, a resort spot near Bangor, Maine, and are known to one and all as the laziest, laughingest, singingest family for miles around. Tim and Liz Bunker and their brood of seven children are without an ambition in the world and prefer to lean generously on the charity of their neighbors rather than go out and work. Only Maggie Rose ever wishes for something a little better; most especially, she wishes that just for once there was enough money for "those Bunkers" to have a wonderful birthday Christmas celebration all of their own.

In spite of their faults "those Bunkers" have a fine feeling for the important things in life and they all recognize Maggie Rose as something special, someone who might have come out of the top bureau drawer, had they had a bureau drawer. So when tragedy threatens Maggie Rose, "those Bunkers" are finally jolted out of their kitchen chairs, and in an unprecedented move they rally together and determinedly set about making Maggie Rose's dream come true.

Ruth Sawyer's unfailing magic...brings smiles and tears to her readers.There's the feel of Maine and Maine people in the telling-the author has a gift for absorbing local idiom, for telling a story out of the hearts of her characters."

This Way to Christmas, also by Ruth Sawyer

Text notes from the online version:

Ruth Sawyer's This Way To Christmas is a collection of Christmas stories from various cultures. But it is also a story about loneliness, isolation, and the overcoming of prejudice. David is sent away from his family because of the first world war. Irish Johanna, David's old nurse, regards the other people on their isolated mountain as "heathen". David finds comfort by visiting them, hearing their stories of Christmas, and retelling their stories to his hosts. It is no accident that each of the story-tellers represents a group which was viewed with suspicion or dislike in 1916 America. Feeling against Germans was strong because of the war; Eastern Europeans were viewed with suspicion and South Americans and Negroes were often treated as inferior races. (Sawyer herself falls into stereotypes in portraying black Uncle Joab as childish and subservient.) It is David, younger and less prejudiced, and feeling a common sense of exile, who communicates a vision of their shared humanity to his elders. In the end, they are all seated at one table, eating together as one human family.


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