Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Letter to Santa Claus by Brigitte Weninger

A Letter to Santa Claus by Brigitte Weninger, illustrated by Anne Moller

Rating: 4.5 stars

Oliver and his mom, a seamstress, live up in the woods; they "only have enough money for bare necessities."One of his mother's clients pays her with a few coins and an old calendar, which Oliver is happy to have.  Something new and interesting!  He beams with excitement.

(I've got to pause here.  I hope your kids beam with excitement for a humble gift this year.  I know there'll be some "Where's the next gift?!" around our tree soon, but...hopefully there will be Appreciation, Gratitude, Gratefulness as well.)

Back to the book.

For December there is a picture of "Santa Claus."  Although Oliver is school-age, he's never heard of Santa Claus before, and is in awe when his mother explains who he is.  But then Oliver wonders if he's been too naughty all these years to receive any gifts...?  Soon after, a kind neighbor gives him a bright red balloon, beautifully juxtaposed with the whites and grays of winter, filled with an equally mysterious thing: helium.  Oliver writes a letter to Santa asking for a lamp for his mother and warm mittens for himself and uses the balloon to carry his letter.  Off floats his hope.

Miles away, the balloon lands in the yard of a grumpy old man, battered from a life of disappointment and sadness and loneliness.  His name is Nicholas; his thick, furry beard hides his frown.  Despite his initial disgruntled response at a child wishing for toys, the humbleness of Oliver's request creeps into his heart.

Days later, he puts on his red cloak and heads to the boy's house with packages for Oliver and his mother.  Oliver's beaming smile returns, and all are warmed with love--the kind of love that comes from extending yourself a bit more than feels comfortable, in a way that you've not in a long time or, maybe, ever.  That sort of love.

The boy and his mom move down the mountain to Nicholas' home, and they call him Grandpa.  They fill each other's lives and give each other not material gifts but all that untouchable, more important stuff: companionship, love, laughter, and others to give those things to.

This book makes me appreciate that untouchable, very important "Christmas spirit."

Thanks for the recommendation, Julia!

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