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Christmas After All by Kathryn Lasky
Literature For Young Adults

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Here is my review of Christmas After All, a book by Kathryn Lasky.

Kathryn Lasky has written more than eighty books for children and adults. She has received a Newbery Honor Award, the National Jewish Book Award,  an ALA Notable Childrens Book, ALA Best Book Award and has been awarded with The Washington Post Childrens Guild Award for her work in children's nonfiction. With this impressive string of successes comes a woman who cares about adolescents, and writes for them in a way that proves it. She comments on her Web site that "her mother said to her when she was young that '...People will say that this is the best time of your life, but it's not. It's the worst.' Adolescence is a time of pain and anxiety, and stories come out of that tension. It's a time when kids are trying to define themselves. I seem to connect with that feeling pretty well."

 

            This versatile and talented writer has written multiple books for Scholastic's Dear America Series, a series of historical fiction books in a diary style that are popular with young readers. Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift is not her latest work but it is one that the author considers close to heart. She used her mother's childhood home as the model for the story, right down to the description of the furniture and the chickens in the story. The characters in the book are fictionalized versions of her aunts and mother.

 

 This diary is "written" by young Minnie Swift, a twelve year old girl living during the Great Depression. It gives a birds-eye view of what it was like for a young person living through a difficult period of American history. In this particular story Minnie's mother's cousin, Willie Faye, has come to live with the Swift family, from the dust blown panhandle of Texas. The story weaves in and out of telling personal anecdotes about how Minnie is feeling and what she is experiencing. The family is experiencing a financial crunch like much of the nation. Her father eventually loses his job, stays shut up in a room the entire day typing away, and her sisters and brothers go to the movies and dances, reality of the times. Her father leaves one day and everyone in town is talking about how he walked out on the family. It is painful for the family. When her father returns, having sold some shows that he had written to the radio broadcasting station, all is well again. The family is reunited and the financial stress, at least for the Swift family, is over.

 

 Ms. Lasky masterfully educates the reader without them knowing it. Minnie writes in her diary about the conditions of the time. For example, the radio is a major form of entertainment in the evenings and going to the movies is a popular activity as it was inexpensive and provided an escape from the harsh realities of the time.   Shantytowns are described and issues with President Hoover's administration come into the story. According to Kirkus reviews "the historical detail is both accurate and interesting as is the historical appendix containing information and photographs of the period." In the back of the book the reader does find interesting period photographs, an epilogue, a recipe for cookies mentioned in the book and other useful information rounding out the reading experience.

 

 

Lasky, Kathryn. CHRISTMAS AFTER ALL: THE DIARY OF MINNIE SWIFT. 2001. New York: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 0-439-21943-4.

 

Kirkus review is taken from Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=2WA2BZWTUB&sourceid=00406217247599515512&bfdate=11%2D12%2D2003+05%3A10%3A49&isbn=0439219434&itm=1

 

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