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Stories to treasure: My Christmas books

We like to do the tree at Christmas. Our boys come back from their grownup lives and we put up the ornaments that Cary and I each brought to the marriage, and we tell the stories behind them and laugh. More quietly each year, I also put out and arrange the Christmas books. Nobody else pays much attention, but I would never want not to have them there.

There’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, with Dylan Thomas’s magical tumbling of words and memories: All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find.

I love Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, about an orphan boy and his childlike aunt, and the years before life divided them that they would fill a baby carriage with windfall pecans, pull out an ancient bead purse with their carefully assembled Fruitcake Fund, and put together 31 cakes that went out as far, believe it or not, as the White House.

In Willem Lange’s Favor Johnson: A Christmas Story, fruitcake is central too. Favor is a lonely, old-time Vermonter whose wounded dog is saved on Christmas Eve by a newcomber neighbor who’s a vet; and each Christmas Eve afterward, Favor hand-delivers his own fruitcakes to everyone in his village, in his old blue pickup. “And the village responded. Now, all through the Christmas season there are cars in his dooryard, and his kitchen is piled high with gifts that he enjoys all through the long winter.”

I still have, after all these years, The Animals’ Merry Christmas. The front cover is gone, it was that well-loved when we were little. My secret favorite was the first story, “The Terrible Teddy Bear,” about a boy who was so difficult he doesn’t really deserve anything. But Santa finds just the right gift — a teddy bear who’s just as nearly impossible. And Teddy gets his secret wish.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, I hope yours are warm and happy. And I hope you have stories that you treasure, too.

The Revealers has been the novel most used by U.S. middle schools. It's easy to see why.

REVEALERS front cover

A middle-school novel that deals realistically with bullying in a multi-character story, The Revealers has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools. Here's an excerpt:

“People have really been doing things to him for years?”
    “Oh yeah. It’s always been open season on Elliot.”
    She shook her head. Her face was flushed. “And those two just ran away?”
    “Yeah. When they lost him and he fell, they got scared.”
    “They could have killed him.”
    “Well ... it wasn’t that far to fall.”
    “But he hit his head.”
    “Yeah.” I couldn’t argue with that. When we pulled Elliot out, his eyes were rolling back and he didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know who he was.

Download The Revealers in schools, a one-page pdf