Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Christmas Book Review - Part I

This might be kind of ironic, or maybe just annoying. I read two Christmas books in the past month. One I read at the end of November, and I haven't written a review for it yet. I will. I just keep leaving my notes on my desk, and not with my laptop.

The other book is a book I've read countless times, but I love it so much that I try and read it every Christmas. That book is The Christmas Doll by Elvira Woodruff.

I might be a bit biased. I received this book when I was 10 years old as a gift from my teacher. (Which would be the lovely Dianne Salerni if I'm remembering everything correctly.) I'm normally someone who can't really get into books about characters much younger than myself, but this one gets sweeter each time, despite the fact that the characters are ten and six.

The Christmas Doll is a relatively short book about two orphaned sisters, Lucy and Glory, stuck in London in the 1800's. They live in a horrid workhouse and the sickness is going around. Little girls start dying, and then little Glory starts coughing, and her older sister realizes that if they stay trapped in the workhouse, Glory will not survive. So Glory breaks the two of them out and they try to survive on the freezing cold streets with nothing but filthy rags for clothes, and made up memories Lucy tells Glory to give her hope.

Then by luck, the sisters come across a doll that they find in a muddy river. What makes this doll remarkable is that it is the unique doll in Lucy's stories, with the smile the curves up on one side making it ugly and beautiful at the same time. It's Glory's doll -- Morning Glory. The only problem is that Lucy made up Morning Glory, and now they found her.

The story goes on from there. Morning Glory is probably the start of the turning plot, so I won't go on myself. Here's what I have to say about the story.

Dolls usually creep me out. Especially since I saw this video. But there is a certain magic within the pages of this book that makes these dolls friendly, loving, and warm. Maybe it's the kindly Miss Thimblebee, or Glory's huge heart, but these dolls don't scare me.

Another thing I like about this book is the imagery. Years later, and I still get sucked into their world. I can feel the gray light of the workhouse and the bitter cold of the city streets. I become desperate for the warmth from the oyster stand and the muddy river. And I can feel myself consumed by the warmth and atmosphere of the shop at Number 9 Mulberry Lane. Even more, I feel like I'm in 19th Century London.

Something so special about this book is the relationship between the sisters. Nothing means more to Lucy than her little sister. She would do anything for Glory, and probably couldn't survive without her. And there is such trust and loyalty between the two, where Glory would do anything for Lucy just because she's her sister. And the love continues right through the very last page.

I must also commend the publishers, or whoever did the layout (yeah, I should figure that out) for starting each chapter with a sort of banner at the top of the page that shows the city skyline of the time. It sucks you into the time. Although I can't be sure if this is in every possible edition of the book.

The only negative I really have, besides the "perfect" ending (although I would hate to see it any other way with how young and innocent these girls are), is this one paragraph. It's a "little did she know" paragraph. "Little did she know that this one action would change the future for her and her sister forever." (Not a direct quote.) I absolutely can't stand when those are stuffed into stories because they tear the reader away from what's happening.

Overall, I love this story. It's a nice, light, holiday read. I would definitely recommend it.

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