Monday, December 26, 2011

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas

I remember reading this picture book/novella to my children quite a few years ago. We'd checked it out from the library, and it was old and battered and clearly nearing the end of its days.  Now my library no longer holds any copies of this book at any of its branches.  When I saw it offered as an ebook for just a few dollars recently, I immediately purchased it.  It was a charming, nostalgic read, revisiting the Austins, one of my very favorite literary families, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them during their 1950s New England holiday season.

This story predates the first book of the Austin Family series, Meet the Austins.  Here Vicki is seven years old, and she is very excited because she has been chosen to play the part of the angel in the Christmas pageant.  Unfortunately, she overhears an unkind remark made by the adults directing the play, commenting on the fact that she is awkward and clumsy, not the best choice for the part after all.  While Vicki is crushed, she turns to her parents for help, and she works very hard to improve her performance. Just as things seem to be looking up, the alarming possibility occurs to her that her mother, who is nearing the end of her pregnancy, might not be able to see the pageant if the baby comes.  She might not even be home for Christmas!  As Vicki thinks about all the ways in which Christmas is only Christmas if the entire family is together, she becomes more and more worried about what might happen if the baby comes early.

The Austin family's Christmas is likely a much simpler affair than most children today experience.  Every day they do something together to prepare and celebrate the advent season.  They put out the figures from the nativity set one day, and they make a Christmas mobile from recycled tin cans the next.  There isn't any mention made, really, of gifts and presents and what Vicki would like to receive for Christmas - it's about being together and enjoying holiday traditions, and I liked that.  I think younger readers would enjoy the story as well, and they would definitely relate to Vicki's hopes and anxieties.  Their eyes might not mist up as mine always do at the end of this story, but they'll be sure to enjoy it all the same.

Source: Purchased ebook

Books in the Austin Family Chronicles:
1. Meet the Austins
2. The Moon by Night
3. The Young Unicorns
4. A Ring of Endless Light
5. Troubling a Star

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas by Madeleine L'Engle; illustrations by Jill Weber (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1964)

Reviews of other books by L'Engle:
A Wrinkle in Time
The Joys of Love


  1. This book is new to me. It does sound like something I would enjoy re-reading every year. Thanks.

  2. I wish I had this book. I could never find a copy. I have almost everything else by her, though.

  3. Heather - It's a tough one to find, but now that it's available digitally, I hope more people can get their hands on it!

    Kailana - Maybe the digital copy will work for you? Do you have an e-reader yet? I can't remember!


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