Thursday, December 15, 2011

Favorite Christmas Books: 24 Days Before Christmas

Today the sweet girl asked me if we could start The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas. Reading this classic book by Madeleine L'Engle has been a family tradition with me before I ever had my own family (I started reading it yearly before I got married, and that's been almost twenty years now!). I don't think the sweet girl can remember a year without it. Some years, like this one, we read it in a few installments over the space of a few days; other years we've read it in the car during Christmas travels.

I love this book for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is Vicky's narration. Vicky is quite possibly my favorite character in all of L'Engle's canon...she's certainly the one I relate to the most. Here we see her at the youngest age she ever appears in Madeleine's body of work. As I wrote when I reviewed the book seven years ago:

"Vicky makes a precocious seven year old narrator. L'Engle occasionally seems to give her a too "adult" kind of tone/reasoning...but readers familiar with the older Vicky can forgive this a bit, and I think even other readers will find her endearing. A lot of us have known very smart seven year olds (and even younger children) who surprise us with the intensity of their questions and the profundity of their thoughts. What feels perfectly natural about her narration is the undertone of anxiety shot through the joyful anticipation. What if she goofs up her part as an angel in the Christmas pageant? (She overhears the director say she's awkward, and spends much of the rest of the story walking around the house with an encyclopedia on her head, trying to improve her grace and poise.) Worse yet, what if the baby decides to come early and her mother ends up in the hospital for Christmas?"

This is also a lovely book to share with families who may not yet be all that familiar with Advent traditions. The Austin family, in their usual amazing way, manages to find something special to do every single day of December, something that gives them an opportunity to be together and to celebrate the joy of Christ's coming.

And fans of the Austin series of books (Meet the Austins, The Moon by Night, The Young Unicorns, A Ring of Endless Light, Troubling a Star, with two shorter books along with this one, A Full House and The Anti-Muffins) will love 24 Days because it gives us a glimpse of Rob's entrance into the world.

The edition pictured above is the one we have and love, with pictures by Joe DeVelasco. The latest edition, still in print, has a bright red cover with a Christmas tree on it and pictures by Jill Weber.

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