Book Reviews, Bookishness, Mamaishness

Margeurite de Angeli’s Turkey for Christmas

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Quaker. I didn’t – and don’t – have any good theological reasons for it. Basically, I think it boiled down to my deserve to live inside [amazon text=Thee, Hannah!&asin=0836191064], by Margeurite de Angeli. I’m fairly confident this was the first of her books I devoured, only to be followed by more: [amazon text=The Door in the Wall&asin=0440402832], [amazon text=Yonie Wondernose&asin=0385075731], and [amazon text=Skippack School&asin=0385075731].

This was a glorious age in school libraries, because no one had yet felt the pressure to cull all these old books, so nerdy little girls could read everything by their favorite authors, one book after the next. Today, those nerdy little girls rush to library sales to buy up all these out-of-print classics, saving them from the landfill. Hard as I try, which is not really very hard at all, I just cannot pass up the opportunity to own these books when I find them.

children's christmas book

A few years ago, I happened upon [amazon text=Turkey for Christmas&asin=B0007DJZYC] at Bound to Be Read, and snatched it up. Honestly, I would have bought it just for the illustration of children sledding on the cover, but I knew that the story inside would be worth it. Written in the early 1960s, it is set a good half-century earlier, and relates the story of a family newly arrived in Philadelphia. It echoes somewhat de Angeli’s own life, as her family moved from Michigan to Philadelphia when she was thirteen, the same age as Bess, who is at the center of the book.

The book opens with the family choosing between having a turkey for Christmas, and having small presents. The decision for turkey is unanimous, with some misgivings from Bess. The need for this choice stems from medical bills, as the older sister, Martha, has been ill and in the hospital for some time. While she is doing better, the costs of the family’s move and her needed medical care have added up. Everyone seems to have their nose to the grindstone, helping keep the family going, and Bess struggles to do her chores and support her mother while keeping a good attitude.

I think what makes this, like all of de Angeli’s historical writing, so special, is the way that she conveys what living in a family is really like. It’s not perfect, and even when you try your hardest, it can be difficult to be exactly what other family members need you to be. The love within the family is evident throughout, though, so no one’s disappointment seems to linger. There’s a bit of moralizing here, but even that seems endearing in the context of the story – which, by the way, ends with a very sweet surprise.

At a time when so many of us are a bit weary of the commercial overdoing and consumer frenzy that Christmas has become, Turkey for Christmas is the sort of book that can create a little meditative oasis in your day. Read it slowly, talk about what’s really important, and celebrate the season for what it really brings.

{The book link above is a compensated affiliate link, but you’d have much better luck trolling library sales and used book stores to find a pretty copy of this book.}