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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Christmas Wind, written by Stephanie Simpson McLellan and illustrtated by Brooke Kerrigan. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2017. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"I'll get Christopher to the barn and come back for you. I'll be fast." The barn was farther away than it looked. The more the wind pushed, the more Jo stumbled. She said words she knew she wasn't allowed to say. Reaching the yard, she hid behind a tree. Noting the single light in the simple house, she darted to the barn, faster than the wind itself.

It's Christmas Eve. Jo, her mother and her newborn brother are on a journey away from a bad situation. It is cold, and she is seeking shelter for her ailing mother when the wild and vicious wind blows them across the fields and into a neighbor's farmyard. There, they find a barn sure to protect them from the weather and keep them safe. Jo takes Christopher into the barn, lays him in a bed of straw, and goes back to help her mother cross the yard.

Returning to the barn, she cannot find the baby. Sure that the farmer, Franklin Murdock, is to blame, she pounds on his door, shovel in hand. He admits he has the baby. Jo knows his grumpy reputation, and is not sure she should trust him. But, what else can she do? She needs help for her family. Mr. Murdock carries her ailing mother inside. Together, the two provide care and comfort for the mother and baby throughout the long night. When Jo is too tired to keep her eyes open, Mr. Murdock promises to keep watch.

Jo opens her eyes in the morning to a Christmas bright with promise.

Brooke Kerrigan's images evoke the power of the wind, the warmth of the simple house, and the strength of a young girl bent on caring for her family. A prairie blizzard is a perfect setting for finding help when is most needed.

Elements of the Christmas story are evident throughout, in the choice of names, the setting, and the circumstances; it is not a retelling. Rather, it is a story of misunderstanding, compassion and hope for the future.

This book reminds me of another book that has been a perennial favorite for more than twenty years ... The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. I hope you can find a copy to share. It, too, is a very special book for this holiday season. 

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