261. A Pioneer Christmas

A Pioneer Christmas: Celebrating in the Backwoods in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood. illustrated by Heather Collins. (Canada ) - (US)
Pioneer Story, Book 3

Pages: 47 pgs.
Ages: 7+
Finished: Dec. 15, 2009
First Published: 2003
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Sarah picked up an apple and pushed a clove into its shiny, red skin.

Acquired: Borrowed from my local library.

Reason for Reading: next & last in the series. Obviously the appropriate time of the year to be reading this.

Summary: Tells of how the Robertson family spends a typical Christmas and yet this year is not so typical as they are awaiting the arrival of family members. Their aunt and uncle (who are expecting their first child) are on their way to come buy land in the area and start their own homestead. This makes the family extra anxious as they not only prepare for Christmas but also await the arrival of their guests.

Comments: It's hard to review this book without comparing it to the first two previous books in the series. This book is identical in set-up as the Thanksgiving one being shorter and having small non-fiction sections and a few crafts or activities between the chapters of the fictional story. We didn't do any of the crafts but they are very simple (though you will need to buy/find the not-just-laying-around-the-house items ahead of time) activities include games, baking and singing. The story is somewhat weaker than the others in this series which switch points of view from sister Sarah then to brother Willie. A Pioneer Christmas keeps Sarah as the main character and we follow her around as she joins the various members of the family doing their tasks and sometimes lending a hand though hardly mentioning the two brothers at all. In my opinion the book looses its boy/girl appeal because of this. Instead of letting Christmas itself be the climax of the story (as she did with the Thanksgiving book) Greenwood has instead woven a plot into this book about the coming relatives and their baby which obviously symbolizes the coming of the Christ Child.

While presenting a secular book, Greenwood has managed to keep this a Christian pioneer celebration of Christmas. There is a one page introduction of how the various European immigrants to Canada brought their customs to Canada and how, to this day, our Christmas celebration is an amalgamation of those traditional customs. Halfway through the book the Christian component first appears in a Scottish carol that is song and finally in the last chapter the family sits down and reads the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible, while using the words 'babe' and 'child', though "Jesus" is finally spoken as well as "Christ". Acceptable enough, I think, for both believers and non-believers to feel comfortable with. The weakest book of the three "Robertson Family" books but still an enjoyable read at Christmas time.

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