Saturday, December 19, 2020

152. The Birds' Christmas Carol

The Birds' Christmas Carol. Kate Douglas Wiggin. 1886. 93 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: It was very early Christmas morning, and in the stillness of the dawn, with the soft snow falling on the housetops, a little child was born in the Bird household.

Premise/plot: Our heroine, Carol Bird (so named because she was born on Christmas Day), is dying and has never been perfectly well. This Christmas--as her family very well knows--could be her very last birthday/Christmas. How will the family celebrate? How they live life every day--with kindness, joy, and love in their hearts. Carol lives--though bedridden--by loving others and sharing with others what she has. For example, she shares her books with the local hospital--ten at a time--and she corresponds with others. Though life has "given her lemons" if you will she has made enough lemonade for one and all. 


  • Love could do nothing; and when we have said that we have said all, for it is stronger than anything else in the whole wide world.
  • On one side of the room was a bookcase filled with hundreds—yes, I mean it—with hundreds and hundreds of books; books with gay-colored pictures, books without; books with black and white outline-sketches, books with none at all; books with verses, books with stories, books that made children laugh, and some that made them cry; books with words of one syllable for tiny boys and girls, and books with words of fearful length to puzzle wise ones. This was Carol's "Circulating Library." Every Saturday she chose ten books, jotting their names down in a little diary; into these she slipped cards that said: "Please keep this book two weeks and read it. With love, Carol Bird." Then Mrs. Bird stepped into her carriage, and took the ten books to the Childrens' Hospital, and brought home ten others that she had left there the fortnight before. This was a source of great happiness; for some of the Hospital children that were old enough to print or write, and were strong enough to do it, wrote Carol cunning little letters about the books, and she answered them, and they grew to be friends.
  • (It is very funny, but you do not always have to see people to love them. Just think about it, and see if it isn't so.)

My thoughts: I didn't appreciate this one at all--not even a little bit--as a kid. I don't know WHY my mom tried so hard to get me to read it every year. I still think it's not really a "children's book." Unless you just happen to know KIDS  who love books where the MAIN CHARACTER DIES. I don't know if that's better or worse than a story where the family dog dies, but, it's not necessarily uplifting unless you're an extraordinary reader--wise beyond one's years perhaps. 

I do appreciate it more now as an adult. I can at the very least appreciate the writing and some of the universal truths. For example, I love, love, love the YOU DO NOT ALWAYS HAVE TO SEE PEOPLE TO LOVE THEM. I have found this to be very true with folks I've only "met" online and have taken up a friendship with!  

This one isn't as cheery as Pollyanna--I still much prefer Pollyanna--but Carol does live out faith in an admirable way. One could argue that the book itself represents everything that's wrong with early children's literature--be good so you can die young and be assured of where you will spend salvation--but I won't be making that argument. Yes, Carol is a GOOD heroine who dies blessed in the Lord--with a smile upon her face--and yes, the fact that she is now happily with her Lord is stressed. But if that alone was the "point" of the book--it wasn't nearly preachy enough. That is to clarify it could have been more preachy and more didactic and more forced. The text was sweet--without question--but not hiding a dose of  bitter medicine that you had to swallow. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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