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Coal Country Christmas
     

Coal Country Christmas

by Elizabeth Brown, Harvey Stevenson (Illustrator)
 

Spending the holidays with those you love best is what Christmas is all about. This is what a little girl learns as she travels with her mother to join her grandmother in an Appalachian coal mining town. Life is not easy in coal country—but in this tightly knit community, traditions are nurtured and passed along year after year, along with an undeniable hope

Overview

Spending the holidays with those you love best is what Christmas is all about. This is what a little girl learns as she travels with her mother to join her grandmother in an Appalachian coal mining town. Life is not easy in coal country—but in this tightly knit community, traditions are nurtured and passed along year after year, along with an undeniable hope and optimism. And on Christmas night, as the child snuggles into bed with both her mother and grandmother, she knows it's more than blankets that are keeping her warm—it's also memories and the love of her family.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mining her own family's experiences in Pennsylvania coal country, Brown debuts with a somber, occasionally poetic tale about a girl visiting her grandmother for the holidays sometime in an indeterminate past. Adult nostalgia seems to guide the girl's first-person narration, and kids without a coal-country connection of their own may not identify with her oscillation between such quaint pleasures as "the old stove... filled with hot, shimmery coals" and the grim toll that mining has taken on the menfolk. "Lung sickness... has left many empty rockers," she comments, and a nighttime walk by a cemetery (where "the row of headstones grows ever longer") adds to the chill. The warmth of family only narrowly predominates, aided by Stevenson's (The Tangerine Tree) textured brushstrokes in blue, purple and green acrylics-although even they have a gray, sooty undertone. Ages 6-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A girl and her mother have come to coal country to spend Christmas with her grandmother. They are the three Liz's, the three of them basking in the warmth of the stove, in the warmth of memories, and in the warmth of the love that they share for one another. All around them there are the reminders of the days when the mines were working, when the men were going down into the bowels of the earth. There is the empty rocking chair where her grandfather used to sit. Lung sickness, an ailment that was commonly found in mining communities, took his life. The houses tilt because of the subsiding earth and windows at night are left cracked for fear of coal gas. The sad legacy of the mines lives on and yet Christmas is still a time of joy, of the bringing together of families, of celebration. For this Christmas in her grandmother's little home there are special traditions to share, special joys to savor and a myriad of treats to enjoy. In this very moving book the author has created a wonderful tribute to those members of her family who were miners and who struggled to provide for their families under very difficult conditions. The author reminds us that there are still the women who were left behind, who lived on surrounded by their memories even after the mines had closed, and after their husbands and sons were no longer with them, claimed by the mines in accidents or by illness. With delicacy and a great skill with words, the author has created a thought provoking and sensitive book which offers a wonderful view of an often forgotten world. 2003, Boyds Mills Press, Ages 5 up.
— Marya Jansen-Gruber
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-A girl tells about going with her mother to her grandmother's home in Pennsylvania's Appalachian coal country to celebrate Christmas. Her observations record details of a hard life-miners who are missing because of lung disease and coal gas in the air-as well as the compensating factors of close and loving families. ("And if we are mostly a family of mothers, sisters, and aunts, it is not unusual in coal country.") The acrylic illustrations are dark and unattractive, adding little to the appeal of this nostalgic story.-V. W. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Set in Pennsylvania coal country in the middle of the last century, this first-person narrative tells of a girl's Christmas visit to her grandmother's house. The little girl, her mother, and the grandmother are all named Liz, and the story explores the strong bond between the three generations of women. Brown touches lightly upon the unfortunate circumstances of living in coal country with a hint of sadness, inevitability, and acceptance. The grandfather of the family died from black-lung disease, and a quiet, calm statement conveys that most of this family is female because the men don't live long lives. The warmth of the loving family and their happy Christmas celebration contrasts with an undercurrent of sadness that runs underneath the story like the coal underground: everyone misses the grandfather, the grandmother is growing older and grayer, and the little girl will miss everyone when she and her mother return home. Stevenson's evocative paintings in smoky shades always include some source of golden light, symbolic of the hope that still shines in these lives. (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590780206
Publisher:
Highlights Press
Publication date:
08/03/2004
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)
Age Range:
6 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Ferguson Brown, whose grandfather was a coal miner in Pennsylvania lives in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Harvey Stevenson is the author and illustrator of a number of picture books. He lives in Paris, France.

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