The Christmas Eve Ghost

Overview

Two children find goodwill and acceptance in unexpected places—even in the hardest of times—in a moving tale from a master picturebook creator.

In 1930s Liverpool, where streetcars clang on iron tracks, young Bronwen and Dylan live with their widowed Mam. Every day, in the wee hours of morning, Mam leaves the two alone as she gathers other people’s laundry to boil in a big metal copper at home. At night, if she’s not too tired, Mam tells fanciful tales of dragons and ghosties, ...

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Overview

Two children find goodwill and acceptance in unexpected places—even in the hardest of times—in a moving tale from a master picturebook creator.

In 1930s Liverpool, where streetcars clang on iron tracks, young Bronwen and Dylan live with their widowed Mam. Every day, in the wee hours of morning, Mam leaves the two alone as she gathers other people’s laundry to boil in a big metal copper at home. At night, if she’s not too tired, Mam tells fanciful tales of dragons and ghosties, and on Sunday, she cautions the children about the O’Rileys next door, who go to a church that is not for their kind. But on Christmas Eve, when Mam must go out, Bronwen and Dylan hear a ghostly plonk! plonk! plonk! from the washroom that sends them running straight into the arms of Mrs. O’Riley. Not only do they find that the house next door harbors nothing to fear, but it may hold a blessing for Mam, too. With evocative drawings full of compelling detail, Shirley Hughes tells a timeless, genuine tale of community and human kindness.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
In the 1930s, Bronwen and Dylan move to Liverpool, England, from Wales because their da died in a mining accident and their mam must work as a washerwoman and seamstress to support the family. Mam will have nothing to do with her new neighbors, the O'Rileys, because they are Catholics. She rushes about every morning to deliver laundry before Bronwen and Dylan wake up.because she cannot afford a babysitter. Bronwen and Dylan help as much as they can, but they still have time to play. The children know they will not get much in the way of presents for Christmas, but they do not mind. Mam works extra hard to afford at least a small present and on Christmas Eve day she takes the children with her to deliver the clothes. They are very tired after all that walking, so Mam takes them home to rest while she goes out to finish her shopping. While they wait for Mam to return, the children hear a plonk sound coming from the washer room at the back of their house. Dylan is sure it is a "horrid ghostie" out to get them and runs screaming into the street. Bronwen is hot on his heels and they both run into Mrs. O'Riley, who assures them that it is nothing but her sons and husband playing a game of darts. Mam comes to fetch them home and discovers Mrs. O'Riley to be a nice person willing to look after Bronwen and Dylan when need be. The illustrations are delightful and the story is a sweet message of trust and tolerance. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—The author/illustrator draws on her memories of 1930s Liverpool to tell this story of a widow and her two children struggling to make ends meet. When the youngsters are left alone while the mother runs an errand on Christmas Eve, they are frightened by ghostly noises coming from the other side of the wall. They have been warned to stay away from the neighbors, the O'Rileys, who go to a church for a "different kind of people, not their kind." Mrs. O'Riley turns out to be an understanding, nurturing adult who takes the siblings in and reveals the source of the noise. American children may not understand the source of the initial religious intolerance. However, Hughes's old-fashioned illustrations are the draw here, and many will find this to be a satisfying family read-aloud.—Virginia Walter, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
Kirkus Reviews

Hughes draws on her childhood memories in this longer-than-usual story about a fatherless Welsh family's struggles in Depression-era Liverpool. Two children, Bronwen and Dylan, live in a row house with their widowed mother, who takes in laundry to make her living. On Christmas Eve, left alone briefly, the children are frightened by spooky noises coming from the washhouse, which leads to a new friendship with the kind-hearted Irish Catholic family living next door. A mixture of full-page and spot illustrations in watercolor and ink creates a nostalgic atmosphere, and details of the hand-washing, drying and ironing process are conveyed through both text and illustrations. The overall theme of the budding friendship between families of different faiths is subtly but effectively presented, and children will understand the feeling of neighborly cooperation. A lovely, refreshing, nostalgia-free reminiscence. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763644727
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Shirley Hughes is the illustrator of more than two hundred children’s books and has won many prestigious awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal twice. She is the author-illustrator of DON'T WANT TO GO! and OLLY AND ME 1 2 3. She lives in London.
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