Zanna's Gift: A Life in Christmases

Overview

When the Pullman family lost their eldest son to an unexpected illness just before Christmas, it was devastating to all of them, but especially to four-year-old Suzanna.  She shared a special bond with her big brother. A strangely gifted child, Zanna loved to draw, but Ernie was the only one who was able to see the pictures in the curious patterns she made. Sadly, he never saw the Christmas drawing she had made for him that year.

Suzanna grew up to be a famous artist, but ...

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Zanna's Gift: A Life in Christmases

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Overview

When the Pullman family lost their eldest son to an unexpected illness just before Christmas, it was devastating to all of them, but especially to four-year-old Suzanna.  She shared a special bond with her big brother. A strangely gifted child, Zanna loved to draw, but Ernie was the only one who was able to see the pictures in the curious patterns she made. Sadly, he never saw the Christmas drawing she had made for him that year.

Suzanna grew up to be a famous artist, but to her family, that last painting she made for her big brother was her most important work. 

This is the story of that gift, and how it inspired the Pullman family to keep alive the spirit of  love, imagination, and hope for generations to come.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Richards's prose is emotional but never overly sentimental. In the tradition of Richard Paul Evans's The Christmas Box and The Locket, Richards' sure-to-be-classic tale is highly recommended for the Christmas season and all year 'round.” —Library Journal on Zanna's Gift
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765358356
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 11/4/2008
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 751,188
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead. Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead both won Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the only author to win these two top prizes in consecutive years. There are seven other novels to date in The Ender Universe series. Card has also written fantasy: The Tales of Alvin Maker is a series of fantasy novels set in frontier America; his most recent novel, The Lost Gate, is a contemporary magical fantasy. Card has written many other stand-alone sf and fantasy novels, as well as movie tie-ins and games, and publishes an internet-based science fiction and fantasy magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.  Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, Card directs plays and teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and youngest daughter, Zina Margaret.

Biography

Any discussion of Orson Scott Card's work must necessarily begin with religion. A devout Mormon, Card believes in imparting moral lessons through his fiction, a stance that sometimes creates controversy on both sides of the fence. Some Mormons have objected to the violence in his books as being antithetical to the Mormon message, while his conservative political activism has gotten him into hot water with liberal readers.

Whether you agree with his personal views or not, Card's fiction can be enjoyed on many different levels. And with the amount of work he's produced, there is something to fit the tastes of readers of all ages and stripes. Averaging two novels a year since 1979, Card has also managed to find the time to write hundreds of audio plays and short stories, several stage plays, a television series concept, and a screenplay of his classic novel Ender's Game. In addition to his science fiction and fantasy novels, he has also written contemporary fiction, religious, and nonfiction works.

Card's novel that has arguably had the biggest impact is 1985's Hugo and Nebula award-winner Ender's Game. Ender's Game introduced readers to Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, a young genius faced with the task of saving the Earth. Ender's Game is that rare work of fiction that strikes a chord with adults and young adult readers alike. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, also won the Hugo and Nebula awards, making Card the only author in history to win both prestigious science-fiction awards two years in a row.

In 2000, Card returned to Ender's world with a "parallel" novel called Ender's Shadow. Ender's Shadow retells the events of Ender's Game from the perspective of Julian "Bean" Delphinki, Ender's second-in-command. As Sam to Ender's Frodo, Bean is doomed to be remembered as an also-ran next to the legendary protagonist of the earlier novel. In many ways, Bean is a more complex and intriguing character than the preternaturally brilliant Ender, and his alternate take on the events of Ender's Game provide an intriguing counterpoint to fans of the original series.

In addition to moral issues, a strong sense of family pervades Card's work. Card is a devoted family man and father to five (!) children. In the age of dysfunctional family literature, Card bristles at the suggestion that a positive home life is uninteresting. "How do you keep ‘good parents' from being boring?" he once said. "Well, in truth, the real problem is, how do you keep bad parents from being boring? I've seen the same bad parents in so many books and movies that I'm tired of them."

Critical appreciation for Card's work often points to the intriguing plotlines and deft characterizations that are on display in Card's most accomplished novels. Card developed the ability to write believable characters and page-turning plots as a college theater student. To this day, when he writes, Card always thinks of the audience first. "It's the best training in the world for a writer, to have a live audience," he says. "I'm constantly shaping the story so the audience will know why they should care about what's going on."

Card brought Bean back in 2005 for the fourth and final novel in the Shadow series: Shadow of the Giant. The novel presented some difficulty for the writer. Characters who were relatively unimportant when the series began had moved to the forefront, and as a result, Card knew that the ending he had originally envisioned would not be enough to satisfy the series' fans.

Although the Ender and Shadow series deal with politics, Card likes to keep his personal political opinions out of his fiction. He tries to present the governments of futuristic Earth as realistically as possible without drawing direct analogies to our current political climate. This distance that Card maintains between the real world and his fictional worlds helps give his novels a lasting and universal appeal.

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    1. Hometown:
      Greensboro, North Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Richland, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A. in theater, Brigham Young University, 1975; M.A. in English, University of Utah, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

ZANNA (Chapter 1)

There are many ways to lose a child, and none of them is merciful. But like all unbearable things it can be borne, and in the weeks before Christmas 1938, the Pullmans were learning how.

Ernie, their oldest boy, had turned fifteen in August and was in his next to last year of high school. There would be little money to send him to college, but he was smart and studied hard. He hoped for a scholarship.

But he didn't count on it. He didn't count on anything. That was why he also worked at Virgil's Furnace.

Ernie had started with Virg as a boy, looking over the man's shoulder while he worked on eking some more life out of the Pullmans' old coal-burner.

"Can't be saved," said Virg, and then told them the bad news about what a new one would cost.

Ernie spoke up before his parents could say a thing. "What's the cost if I go to work for you?"

Virg looked the boy up and down—which wasn't far, he was only ten at the time, and not big for his age. Ernie had watched closely during the attempted repair. He'd made himself useful, fetching this and holding that. And his questions showed that he understood what Virg was doing.

So Virg looked at Mr. and Mrs. Pullman and said, "I'll take him on, but I can't say how much it'll take off the price till I see what his work is worth."

"That's fair," said Ernie, again before his parents could respond. "I'll make sure the discount is good and big."

Ernie learned so fast and worked so hard that in the end, his parents paid exactly what their furnace had cost Virg. And Virg kept Ernie on, helping with repairs and installations and helping with the books, too, until, at the age of fifteen, he was the unofficial junior manager.

The other two furnacemen and the coal truck driver might have resented this, but Ernie had such a respectful way of talking that it never felt as though he was giving orders to men twice or three times his age.

Half the money he earned, he handed over to his father. The other half went into the bank, for college.

Mr. Pullman was proud of his oldest son, saying little about it, of course, because a man didn't gush about such things, it would only embarrass the boy.

Mrs. Pullman, on the other hand, looked with suspicion on the teenage girls who had a way of routing their walk to school past the Pullman house, on Lily Street. She knew perfectly well what a prize catch her boy would be, and knew there wasn't a girl alive who was worthy of him.

Ernie's two younger brothers, Davy and Bug (short for Beadle, a name which even Mrs. Pullman, whose mother's maiden name it was, now realized had been a mistake), worshiped Ernie, but from afar. Ernie had always looked out for them, but never fought with them or bullied them or, as they got older, played with them. He was too busy, and they were too in awe of him, for roughhousing or rivalry.

But when Suzanna was born in spring of '34, Ernie took her to his heart. Only to hold fussing baby Zanna would he interrupt his homework, and she seemed to quiet most quickly in his arms, looking up into her brother's face as he cooed to her in a voice that Bug declared was sickening enough to make a grown man puke.

She sat on his lap while he studied, until she was old enough to crumple the pages or seize the pencil, and then he bought crayons and paper for her out of his own money and encouraged her to draw.

Zanna was no scribbler—instead of bold strokes, she made tiny, meticulous curlicues and filled-in dots, working for long stretches of time to fill just one corner of a piece of paper.

Then she would slide it over to Ernie, who would look up from his books and papers, examine the drawing carefully, and then look steadily into her eyes.

"I know it's a child," he might say, "but I don't know who."

" 'S not a child," Zanna would say—or sounds to that effect. "It's a dog."

"But it's a very young dog." He pointed to another part of the drawing. "And I don't appreciate the way that dog is nipping at me while I'm trying to get a new furnace hauled into the Petersons' cellar."

And she would giggle at the fantasies he spun around her incomprehensible art.

Gradually, though, her art became comprehensible to him, and it wasn't long before his guesses were usually right.

Nobody else understood how he did it. One night, after four-year-old Zanna was in bed and asleep, Mrs. Pullman held up her night's work and asked Ernie, "How in the world did you find a car on this paper?"

He pointed to a spiral near the bottom. "That's how she makes wheels."

"But there's only one."

"She only draws one in detail. Those dots are the other three tires."

"She puts all four tires on a car? You can only see two at a time."

"She's short, Mom. She sees all four."

"OK, but where's the rest of the car?"

"That's the steering wheel. That's Dad driving the car."

"They're just twisty little spirals."

"But that one has a nose, so it's a person, and that one's on a stick, so it's the steering wheel. Who would be driving except Dad?"

"Why doesn't she draw the whole car?"

"She has an eye for the round parts," said Ernie. "It's like the whole world is a big connect-the-dots, and all she bothers to draw are the dots."

"What Ernie's saying," said twelve-year-old Davy, "is that Zanna's crazy, but he's crazy the same way."

"Yep," said Ernie.

Zanna never heard that conversation, but she knew that Ernie was the only one who understood her drawings, and so it was only natural that all her drawings were for him. She didn't bother showing them to anyone else. He showed them off, explaining them to everybody else, while Zanna beamed in pride.

Zanna knew that drawing was the best thing she did. Her only evidence for this belief was that Ernie understood and praised her pictures. But that was more than enough for her to be convinced she was an artist of extraordinary merit.

ZANNA'S Copyright © 2004 by Scott Richards

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Short and Sweet

    I love the author but this was a little....different for him. It's a very very short book but is very touching to anyone that has lost someone.

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