Reviewed by Laurie Williams Sowby
Christmas-themed books abound, and many are intended mainly to look at. But here are three that are intended to be read – and enjoyed. Last-minute shoppers still may be able to pick these up at LDS bookstores everywhere.
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A Christmas Treasury for Latter-day Saint Families (Deseret Book, $21.95), by Lloyd and Karmel Newell, goes the standard collection one better with old-fashioned illustrations and content that carries special appeal as a read-aloud book. In hardcover with 124 sturdy pages, it offers 25 short “chapters” with such themes as hope, gratitude, love, simplicity, service, family, adversity, and joy.
In addition to the usual poems and stories contained in such collections, Treasury has scriptures, quotes and anecdotes by LDS general authorities. The 24th chapter, “Christmas Eve,” offers both Clement C. Moore’s “The Night before Christmas” and the Christmas story found in Luke 2. The 25th chapter speaks of testimony, including that of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon regarding Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.
Unlike most collections of this type, sources for the quotes, literature, and excerpts from church history are documented in endnotes.
Reading together A Christmas Treasury for Latter-day Saint Families would make a great holiday tradition – although most of us would not sound as good as Tabernacle Choir announcer Lloyd Newell reading his own book aloud!
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The Light of Hope (Covenant, $14.95) is Emeritus General Authority Vaughn J. Featherstone’s contribution to the season with, as the cover suggests, “Heartfelt Stories that bring the True Christmas Spirit.” The 199-page hardcover covers a variety of aspects of the Christmas season, always urging remembrance of the Savior.
In the first chapter, Featherstone muses on Luke, “the gentle physician” who wrote of Christ’s birth, and comments on what a doctor’s perspective might be about Mary, the trip to Bethlehem, and her experience as a first-time mother. In other chapters, he shares his own experiences and also borrows from others to make a point, including Mother Teresa, LDS general authorities, and printed articles. Gentle humor mixes with poignant retelling.
Unfortunately, the complete source is not always noted, as with the story from “a national women’s magazine” that fails to credit the LDS author. Neither is it clear whether the stand-alone poems are his own.
But the stories are always memorable, such as the one about Featherstone’s own youthful yearning for a coat that his single mother could not afford; neither did his younger siblings get their wish. He remembers that Christmas because “it was the Christmas I finally grew up” and learned empathy for others.
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A Return to Christmas (Covenant, $7.95), by Chris Heimerdinger, has been a perennial favorite of our family for at least a decade. It’s now available in a newly released paperback edition, but it’s the same engaging tale of mistaken identity, with the same clever dialogue and non-stop action that characterize Heimerdinger’s popular Tennis Shoes series.
The comical adventure tells of two 11-year-old boys in Salt Lake City, one from an affluent family and the other a street urchin, who discover the true meaning of Christmas when their roles (and families) are switched. The popularity of the novel has understandably reached beyond LDS audiences to national interest.
A Return to Christmas makes an excellent chapter-a-night read-aloud story for the family, before or after Christmas.