Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Our Books & Such offices are closed for Christmas Break. We decided to choose some oldies but goodies to re-blog. This is a blog post I wrote several years ago but I still think about some of the beloved “good girl” books that I loved. Here goes:
The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin was my all-time favorite children’s Christmas book. Written in 1888 it is the story of a girl born on Christmas day who is appropriately named Carol after the faint strains of Christmas carols her mother heard coming from a nearby church while giving birth. Her parents and family of brothers cherish Carol, who, rather than being spoiled by all the attention, is sensitive and generous. She is struck with an illness and by the time she is ten years old, she is bedridden with the fatal disease. But even struggling for her life her focus is on others and she is still concerned about all those who suffer.
Her last Christmas on earth Carol decides that instead of a birthday party she wants to give a party for the poor Ruggles family and their nine children. Her whole family helps make her wish come true before she quietly slips away listening to the same faint carols that ushered her into the world.
I know. It sounds like Victorian sentimentality but it is so much richer than I described it. Confession: all the books I loved as a child were good girl books. Wiggin was also the writer of another favorite, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Pollyanna, Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables—these were the books of my childhood. With today’s fare of madcap adventures, fantasy and gritty reality I’m all for a dose of kindness and sentimentality. This would be a great book to read with a middle grader.
In my days as a dollmaker I immortalized all the Childhood Classics® that were in the public domain or for which we could get a license. Bird’s Christmas Carol is no exception. In 1996 I sculpted Carol Bird exactly the way I pictured her when I was a bookish ten-year-old.
The last sentence of the book still moves me: “And so the old years, fraught with memories, die, one after another, and the new years, bright with hopes, are born to take their places; but Carol lives again in every chime of Christmas bells that peal glad tidings and in every Christmas anthem sung by childish voices.”
Writers tip: Though “sentimental” books for children are out of favor these days we need to learn from the classics. We loved them because we identified with the protagonists. Yes, the emotional aspects touched that maudlin part of us but it made us face the transitory state of our earthly lives and the importance of eternal life. All heady stuff to ten-year-olds.
Question: What about you? Did you have sentimental favorites from the late Victorian era, Christmas or not? What about good girl books? Are they still enjoyed by girls today? (Talk among yourselves, dear friends. I’m celebrating Christmas with my computer off.)