The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas
I've written about my love for Madeleine L'Engle before. (See Pinterest, too.) Or at least I've written about my love for A Wrinkle In Time. I read it for the first time when I was ten, then read it six to ten times before I finished sixth grade. I also loved A Wind in the Door, but I confess, as a kid I never read beyond those two. A Swiftly Tilting Planet disappointed me, because I didn't want to read about Meg as an adult, and I preferred Charles Wallace as a precocious small child rather than as a teenager. I didn't read beyond the first chapter. Then in 2007, five books were reprinted together as "The Time Quintet:" A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. I loved the new covers, and I bought them all. And this time I read them. I also wanted to travel back in time and shake my 10-year-old self and tell her she should have never given up!
An Acceptable Time in particular spurred me to seek out other L'Engle children's books. I had to check them out from the library. When I started bookselling in 2000, the Austin family books and others were still available in paperback in our teen section. By 2007, they were out of print. What I discovered during that read-a-thon was that I loved the Austin family as much, if not more, than the Murrays.
The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas takes place when Vicky Austin is only seven. She narrates this tale in that rather adult voice that would read as weird to anyone unfamiliar with the teenage Vicky. In other words, she doesn't sound like a typical seven-year-old, but Vicky never sounded like a typical teenager, either. The book is an Advent story: Vicky is to play the angel in the church Christmas pageant. Things are not going well early in the rehearsal process, but with her family's help, she is working hard to improve.
Each day, the family does one special thing to prepare for Christmas, as their way of observing the season of Advent. One day, they make cookies. Another day, they make a Christmas mobile from cut tin cans and ornament balls. On still another day, Mrs. Austin retrieves a stuffed Santa from the attic for Vicky and her sister Suzy to take turns sleeping with.
As Vicky's fears about the pageant begin to evaporate, new fears set in. She is scared her mother will go into labor and miss the pageant, and worse yet, she will in the hospital for Christmas. Baby Rob is due soon.
All through the book, the children keep watch for snow. When it finally comes, it roars in as a Christmas Eve blizzard. Will the pageant go on? Will Mrs. Austin make it to the hospital?
The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas was published in 1984, with illustrations by Joe De Valasco. The pictures are very dated, but realistic. This is the copy that we have. In 2010, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux repackaged the book with new illustrations by Jill Weber. The cover is lovely, but I admit, I've never opened it. Has anyone else ever seen or read the new edition?
One last semi-related note: I got an early Christmas present! A couple days before Thanksgiving, Out of Print clothing posted a picture on their Facebook page of some of their new merchandise. (Are you familiar with Out of Print? No? GO, right now, and check them out. My favorite local indie bookstore carries some of their stuff, and I have a Pride and Prejudice tee that I just adore. LOVE Out of Print.) There were a couple of new Alice in Wonderland shirts pictured, so of course I had to click. But as much as I love Alice, how on earth could I live my life without an A Wrinkle in Time t-shirt, now that I knew one existed???
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