A Christmas Like Helen's

Overview

At Helen’s home, there are no telephones or electric lights. Cars have not yet been invented, so she and her sister and brothers must walk a mile to school, even in freezing weather. Without refrigeration, they must harvest ice from the pond.
But at night she and her family gather around the woodstove to hear stories of castles and princes in hiding. They take horse-drawn sleigh rides, snug under buffalo robes and wool blankets; skate in the ...

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Overview

At Helen’s home, there are no telephones or electric lights. Cars have not yet been invented, so she and her sister and brothers must walk a mile to school, even in freezing weather. Without refrigeration, they must harvest ice from the pond.
But at night she and her family gather around the woodstove to hear stories of castles and princes in hiding. They take horse-drawn sleigh rides, snug under buffalo robes and wool blankets; skate in the moonlight; and on Christmas morning have real maple syrup for breakfast.
With absorbing details of country life and elegant, hand-colored woodcuts, this book captures the strength of family, the magic of Christmas, and the love of place all year long.

Presents a descriptive list of all the things required to have a Christmas like the author's grandmother had, including farm animals, stories of Scotland, ice skating in the moonlight, and joining friends, family, and neighbors at church on Christmas Eve.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Fun, love and respect permeate this volume, a reminder of the riches implicit in simpler holiday joys.
Publishers Weekly, Starred

Azarian's beautifully composed and carefully researched illustrations draw the reader into Helen's era, into a quieter time of candlelight, sleigh bells, and family stories shared around the woodstove.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred

Best suited for reading aloud, this gorgeous book might inspire grown-ups to share their own family stories with the children in their care.
School Library Journal

The language is lovely, and Azarian's trademark woodcuts, hand-tinted with color, are as endearing as ever. Warm and welcoming.
Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

Publishers Weekly
Family history meets lyrical storytelling in Kinsey-Warnock's homage to her grandmother's childhood on a Vermont farm. Having a Christmas like Helen's means appreciating the wonders of nature, a close-knit clan and dear friends, in an age "before cars, telephones or electricity." Fun, love and respect permeate this volume, a reminder of the riches implicit in simpler holiday joys. Azarian's (previously paired with the author for From Dawn Till Dusk) rough-hewn woodcuts gently washed in watercolors capture a rustic beauty. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
To experience this nostalgic trip back to a Christmas long ago on a Vermont farm, you need, among other things, a mother and father like Helen's to tell you tales of long ago. As the author brings us to that farm, we follow Helen through a year of keeping "the spirit of Christmas all year long." After the bitter cold of winter, the raising of food for the next winter begins. Neighbors help each other through hard times. When winter returns, the family gathers for Christmas joy and the trip to church and back in the horse-drawn sleigh. The text is rich with the images of the life so different from our own. And the hand-tinted colored woodcuts also visualize a time and place now known only by a few. Azarian depicts the farm in bucolic scenes with buildings, barn-raising, wagons, sleds, and animals. People are all engaged in loving labors in scenes loaded with the alluring nostalgia of days gone by. The joys but not the hardships are appealingly and delightfully represented. A note tells us that there was a real Helen, the grandmother of the author. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 4 to 8.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-The author tells contemporary children what Christmas would have been like for her grandmother, living on a farm in Vermont before there were cars, electricity, or telephones. The engaging narrative and Azarian's fine, hand-colored woodcuts combine to raise the story above many similar nostalgic accounts of holidays past. Best suited for reading aloud, this gorgeous book might inspire grown-ups to share their own family stories with the children in their care.-V. W. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Kinsey-Warnock's poetic, understated text proves to be well-suited to Caldecott Medalist Azarian's subtle, hand-colored woodcut illustrations, in this second collaborative effort set in the Vermont farm country that both know from experience. This story describes a little girl's life during the Christmas season around 1900, using the repeating structure of "To have a Christmas like Helen's, you'll have to . . . " as a means of introducing all the different activities, types of work, and special experiences in her young life. Helen is the youngest of seven children, and her family's tender love for their little girl is evident in their many caring ways, especially in the closing pages when Helen's father takes her to the barn to see a newborn foal on Christmas Eve. Azarian is a master at capturing New England life in her woodcuts, showing the farmhouse, barn, one-room schoolhouse, and wintry white fields of Helen's world. Her beautifully composed and carefully researched illustrations draw the reader into Helen's era, into a quieter time of candlelight, sleigh bells, and family stories shared around the woodstove. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618231379
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.25 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Caldecott Medalist Mary Azarian is a consummate gardener and a skilled and original woodblock artist. Many of her prints are heavily influenced by her love of gardening, and her turn-of-the-century farmhouse is surrounded by gardens that reveal an artist's vision. Mary Azarian received the 1999 Caldecott Medal for SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. She lives, skis, and gardens in Vermont.

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