76. Children of Christmas
by Cynthia Rylant
juvenile fiction, 1987
first children's book for The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge
Instead of one short story this Wednesday, I'm going to write about a collection of six children's stories for Christmas by a most wonderful writer, Cynthia Rylant.
These are stories for the older school-age child, but are interesting and heart-warming to an adult reader as well. I have read them more times than I can count, both with my children and by myself. They are little vignettes, glimpses into the lives of six people. As I read them again this year, I thought that just perhaps I've not read anything quite so fine, so clear, so full of quiet description.
The Christmas Tree Man is about Garnet Ash who has lived all by himself since his parents died many years ago. He runs a Christmas tree farm, and that is the only time of year he sees people, other than when he goes into town for supplies. This may sound deeply sad, but it really isn't. Just as in all of Cynthia Rylant's tales, characters aren't terribly unhappy even if they live lives outside the norm. They have times of true happiness and contentment, which is what each of us hopes for.
Halfway Home is about Frances and her father who have stopped to eat at a diner after shopping on Christmas Eve. There are only a few people inside, as you might expect on such a night. And then a cat appears.
For Being Good is about eleven-year old Philip who hasn't seen his grandfather for many years. The grandfather comes to visit for Christmas from Florida, and each receives an unexpected gift.
Ballerinas and Bears is a story of young Sylvia in New York City who walks and walks to escape the terrible loneliness in her apartment; her home where her mother never is, and where there is no food or comfort for a child. She feels a sense of peace only when she walks, and this night she receives consolation in shops and a church, and finally in the kindness of an unknown taxi driver.
Silver Packages tells of a man who once had a car accident in the mountains, and was taken care of by a local person. On the twenty-third of December, every single year he stands on the rear platform of the train, and throws presents to the children as a way of repaying the kindness which saved his life. For some, it is the only present they will receive. There is one little boy who always wishes for a doctor kit, and though he never gets one, when he grows up he realizes the great gifts he has received and returns to give his own gift to the people of his home area.
The last story is All The Stars In The Sky, and it is about a homeless woman, Mae. I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps the little girl in Ballerinas and Bears may one day be like her. Mae has no memory of an earlier life, but she knows what she needs to know; where to go for food and shelter and clothes. This night she is feeling ill and cannot remember where to go when she is sick. She wanders into a library with her three dogs and comes upon nourishment for both her body and her soul.
The book is illustrated by S.D. Schindler. The black and white pictures are perfect. Each story has just one. He also did the cover which offers little Christmas cards of each story.
The picture in For Being Good
This is my first book for the Visions of Sugarplums section of The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.
Short Stories on Wednesdays is hosted by Breadcrumb Reads
Addendum: I found a lengthy biography of Cynthia Rylant here.