________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002

cover The Last Chimney of Christmas Eve.

Linda Oatman High. Illustrated by Kestutis Kasparavicius.
Honesdale, Penn: Boyds Mill Press (Distributed in Canada by Stewart House), 2001.
32 pp., cloth, $24.99.
ISBN 1-56397-804-0.

Subject Heading:

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Meredith MacKeen.

*** /4


It was Christmas Eve,
and Nicolas had one last chimney to clean.
He hitched the horse,
then carried from the wagon
a ladder and a broom,
brushes and scrapers and rods -
chimney sweeps' tools.

Wearing a tailcoat of silky black
and a top hat to match,
the master sweep lifted a brush
bristled with whiskers as
Nicolas shivered.
He wore a ragged coat,
and he was covered in soot.
Nicolas knocked on the door.

Nicolas was a hard working chimney sweep with one last chimney to clean on Christmas Eve. After working his way to the top of the chimney, he looked around to absorb the good smells of Christmas- the evergreen trees, the chimney smoke, and the warm mincemeat. "Someday," he thought "Christmas eve will be joyful for me, the way it's meant to be." As he finishes tidying up, the owner of the house offers Nicolas a furry red coat and a heavy globe of glass. When Nicolas thanks the man for his kindness, he answers, "Pass it on." The years pass, and Nicolas becomes an old man. He decides to return to the roof tops, passing on the kindness, he so long ago received.

inside art

      "Each year, as church bells chime
and lights glow cozily in the homes below,
the old man Nicholas gets a lump in his throat.
'This,' he thinks, 'is what Christmas is meant to be.'
Then, heart beating hard as he rises into the stars,
Nicolas leaves behind the last chimney of Christmas Eve."

     Teachers are always searching for a new Christmas story, and, because the themes are so well known, the readers will be able to fill in the gaps in the writing. As the excerpt illustrates, the writing style seems awkward, and the positioning of the words suggest free verse, but the rhythm is lacking. From following the words alone, the first part of the story falls into place. However, the drawings of Kestutis Kasparavicius are needed to provide meaning to the last part of the story where the author does not indicate "what Christmas is meant to be." The illustrator suggests delivering presents with "Santa Claus" floating through the sky as his interpretation. Kasparavicius has added delicate soft paintings, suggestive of the 19th century in a central European town. They add a great deal to clarifying the story.


Meredith MacKeen is a teacher-librarian at Glen Stewart School in Stratford, P.E.I

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364