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This Way to Christmas Review by Kathy Gelzer

By Ruth Sawyer
Yesterday's Classics
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

This Way to Christmas is a 134-page children's Christmas story for ages nine and up. Originally published in 1916, it is about eight-year-old David, whose parents have to go away during World War II. He is left in the capable hands of his now grown and married nanny, Johanna, and her husband Barney, who live in upstate New York.

Not only is David separated from his family, but he is also depressed at the thought of spending Christmas in the desolate country. Only four neighboring cabins are nearby, and Johanna has convinced David the inhabitants are "heathens" and not to be mingled with: South Americans, a Negro, an eastern European, and a German. How can he have any kind of Christmas without gifts, decorations, family, or friends? "The very thought of the toy-stores in the city, of the windows with their displays of Christmas knick-knacks, of the street booths covered with greens, of what the boys on the block were doing and talking about, of the memories of all the other Christmases that had been, brought unspeakable pangs to his soul. He wondered how he was ever going to stand it--this Christmas that was no Christmas."

David ends up meeting a fairy who strikes a bargain with him. He says to David, "If ye'll start out and look for Christmas I'll agree to help ye find the road to it." What transpires is David's meeting and befriending each of his "heathen" neighbors, hearing their homeland Christmas stories, and discovering that it is possible to celebrate Christmas wherever you are, no matter the circumstances. The lessons in This Way to Christmas are timeless: coping with loneliness, befriending people who are different from you, and celebrating Christmas without the traditional gifts and glitter.

I wish the publishers had included some translations of the foreign language bits in the book. Some parents may be put off by the inclusion of the fairy, and one of the stories centers on Santa Claus. These do not play a big part in the book, however. The word "nigger" appears in the story as well, but it is not used in a derogatory sense.

My children, who range in age from 8 to 14, enjoyed this book very much. This Way to Christmas would be a wonderful story to read every Christmastime.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2009