________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 14. . . . December 8, 2017


The Christmas Wind.

Stephanie Simpson McLellan. Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2017.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-534-9.

Subject Headings:
Homeless families-Juvenile fiction.
Single parents-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4



The Christmas Wind is award winning author Stephanie McLellan's fifth children's book. In telling this story, the author worked with a thousand primary students across the country in what she called The Christmas Wind Project. She says of this endeavour: "Together we are bringing the children back in time to when things were un-Googleable and wonder and wait weren't foreign words."

     The students listened to the story in eight parts the way a radio series would have been presented in times gone by. Then they used their visualizations of the story to illustrate each part. The project had help from the Canadian Children's Book Centre as one class from each province or Territory was picked to draw pictures from their imagination.

The wind shoved Jo sideways, stealing feeling from her fingers and toes. It chased her with ghostly moans and creepy shrieks. The day before Christmas and still no snow...

Jo hitched her baby brother higher on her hip. Leaving was the right thing to do, but the timing was bad. Her mother's eyes were slippery and her forehead shiny, and Christopher was still so new.

     With the wind buffeting them from all sides, Jo and her mother Merry and the newborn baby Christopher must find shelter for the night. The only house close by belongs to a crotchety farmer, Franklin Murdock, whose "very name sounds like a curse". Jo does not dare go to the house, but she takes the baby to the barn, lays him in the manger and manages to get her mother to the barn where she is horrified to find there is no sign of Christopher. She picks up a shovel and knocks on the door of Franklin Murdock's house intent on getting her baby brother back. Murdock belies his name as he carries Jo's exhausted mother into his home and insists that Jo and her brother stay with him overnight.

In the morning Jo looks around the room where the little family had slept to find
that Mr. Murdock has done more than keep watch:

Fresh cedar draped the window sills and a Christmas tree leaned in the corner. Threads of straw wove like gold ribbon through the greenery, pinched in places by scraps of coloured cloth tied into awkward bows. Silver spoons dangled from the branches, and presents wrapped in newsprint, crowded beneath..."

     The Christmas wind has brought the spirit of Christmas to Mr. Murdock.

     Echoes of the nativity story resonate throughout McLellan's beautifully told tale. It would be hard for readers to miss the names (Jo and Merry and baby Christopher) the author has picked for the protagonists. The change of heart that Franklin Murdock experiences harkens back to a wonderful picture book by Susan Wojciechowski, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (1995).

     The lovely, soft illustrations, created by Brooke Kerrigan to suggest an earlier time in the last century, are a perfect match to the gentle, spare prose of the story. Her depiction of the prairie windstorm will make readers shiver.

     The Christmas Wind will make an excellent addition to the elementary library's collection of seasonal picture books. Paired with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, it would make a fine read aloud for the holiday season.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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