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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Marguerite's Christmas, written by India Desjardins and illustrated by Pacal Blanchet. Translated from the French by Carolyn Grifel. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada, Raincoast. 2015. $27.50 ages 8 and up

"Ding Dong!
She isn't expecting anyone.
Her heart begins to pound.
She is seized by anxiety.
This is it. Her time has come.
She's not ready.
She hears faint voices
coming from outside.
Peeking through the curtains,
she sees a car in front of her

This is my absolute favorite book for this Christmas season! It might be that it strikes a little close to home. I have not decorated for Christmas this year as we won't be celebrating until late in January, when my family is all together. It doesn't bother me in the least. When my son arrives next week, he is not likely to notice that there is no sign of Christmas being but a few short days away. Is it my age? Or am I just past the commercialism of it? The rush to buy, buy, buy when we need nothing and so many others have nothing. What a curmudgeon I am!!!

Marguerite might be seen in much the same light. She is elderly and not our focus until we have become familiar with her surroundings - her snowy road, her neighbors as they greet each other taking great delight in the snowy landscape. Only then do we meet Marguerite:

"Marguerite Godin would be happy if she never had to set foot outside her house ever again."

She likes Christmas and until last year, she did her best to decorate the whole house. But, it made her very tired and then she didn't have the energy to take it all down again. The wreath stays up all year, only lit during the holiday season. She is not afraid to be alone at Christmas, although her family finds that hard to believe. In truth, she only wants their happiness. Marguerite is feeling old, vulnerable, set in the ways that she does what needs to be done. Her fears are buoyed by newspaper reports of robberies, people preying on the aged, her inability to move quickly to protect herself. It is a lonely life to live.

When a family car veers into a snowbank on Christmas Eve in front of her house, members of the family need her help. It brings every one of her fears to the forefront, causing endless worry as she allows the father to use her phone, the daughter to use her bathroom. But, watching the family celebrate together inside their stalled car brings a sense of joy to the old woman. A sudden halt to the noises she has been hearing from outside leads her to think that their battery has died. The family might be in need of further help. She prepares a snack, clothes herself for the trip outdoors, only to watch as  the tow truck hauls the car away. 

A tender smile and a sense of wonder at the beauty of the cold, clear night leaves readers with a sense of the peace the season can bring. Contemplative, at times humorous, unquestionably memorable.

The design is quite beautiful, with a cloth cover, thick pages, candy cane endpapers and wonderful retro illustrations. It is a window into a world of the elderly; a glimpse at the vulnerability of someone who may be part of the family; a moving story that could become a family tradition to read during the holiday season.

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