Sunday, November 10, 2013

Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Is it too early to review a Christmas book?  The shops are already filling with trees and decorations and today I saw my first fruit mince pies so perhaps I can talk about this very special Christmas book even though it is only early November. The story of Holly and Ivy is very old.  It was first published in 1957 but we have bought a beautiful new copy for our school library.  I remember an elderly relative gave me a book by Rumer Godden when I was about four or five - Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.  I still have my precious old copy.

The story of Holly and Ivy is a Christmas book that should be read with a young child beside you.  It is a long story which could be enjoyed over several nights.  Here in Australia you would be reading this book in the Summer but it would be even better shared on a cold winter evening with snow falling softly around your home.

This story is slightly reminiscent of The little match girl by Hans Christian Andersen but it does not have the same tragic ending - in fact the ending here is miraculous and this is part of the charm and delight of this story.

Holly is a doll in a toy shop.  The time is Christmas eve. Nearly all the toys have been sold but the little Christmas doll in her red dress, red shoes and green socks has been overlooked.  In a scene like the one in Toy Story 3, there is an evil toy who also remains unsold - an owl.  He is the voice of doom.  His name is Abracadabra and he seems determined to make Holly's life miserable.  He even tries to stop the shop boy Peter from giving Holly to Ivy the little orphan girl who has spent the night sleeping near the toy shop after looking all day for her 'Grandmother.'

"Peter said that Abracadabra must have toppled, for a toy owl cannot fly, but it seemed for a moment that Abracadabra was right in his face; the green eyes were close, the spread of wings, the hooked beak, and the claws."

Ivy has left the orphanage when no one offers to take her over the Christmas holiday.  She is supposed to travel to an infant home but instead stays on the train and arrives in Appleton.  Ivy is convinced her grandmother lives there.  "I must look for a house with a tree and no children,' said Ivy.

Meanwhile Mrs Jones is longing for a child to share her Christmas. She tells her husband 'Christmas needs Children.'  I am sure by now you have joined all the dots here just as Rumer Godden did when she wrote this book over fifty years ago.

I love the sentiment of this quote :  "Dolls are not like us, we are alive as soon as we are born, but dolls are not really alive until they are played with."

Here is a link to the television movie of this book.  I am also including one illustration here.  As far as I can work out Barbara Cooney is the third person who has illustrated this classic Christmas Story.  The Christian Birmingham one looks lovely too but it is long out of print.  

1 comment:

kinderbooks said...

I started serialising it to Year 1 on Thursday. As usual they were riveted, even the boys. Good to see there is a movie. I can show that when we finish and do some compare/contrast. I have the Birmingham one too, but it is in chapter book format with black and white illustrations. I find Barbara Cooney's version keeps young children more attentive.