The Mole Family’s Christmas – Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

So, I’m not quite done with Christmas yet. Equal to but perhaps not as well known as Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, is another Christmas story by Russell Hoban, The Mole Family’s Christmas. 

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The Mole Family, of course, live under the ground, in the dark. One morning when Delver Mole tunnels up to the surface and a mouse tells him Christmas is coming. But none of the family knows what that is. They say, “Perhaps it is a people thing.” But Delver just can’t let it go and not only that, he then has to find out what stars are too. That is the start of the Mole Family’s first Christmas.

I love the humour in this little story. This is the Mole Family’s letter to Santa Claus: To the man in a red suit and fat we would like a telescope we are nearsighted Thank you love the Mole Family. And I think I like the pictures in this even better than Emmet Otter. The owl is quite wonderful.

My copy has a bit of family history. A least, the ownership is not quite clear. The cover says Katie, the title page says Amy, and the first page of the story says Katie May. I’m not sure if that means she won. Curiously, the letter to Santa is always handwritten in in a blank space where the letter would have or should have been printed. So maybe my version isn’t right, but I think it fits. I wonder what happened there?

I think I am going to turn this into a Christmas concert play.

I hope you wrote your letter to the fat man in the red suit! Merry Christmas!



Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas – Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

I just can’t resist doing more Russell Hoban for Chistmas! Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas is, I think, one of my favourite picture books and one of my favourite childhood memories. I remember watching the muppet version of the story over and over again, on one of the those large discs that were for around for awhile in the eighties that movies were played on. (I have a very distinct picture in my mind but have no idea what they were called.) Only later did I realize that Emmet Otter was a book and by Hoban, no less, when it sat there staring at me a in used book store. (That is where my copy if from.) I re-discovered what a lovely story it is.

Emmet and his mother don’t have much, but they have each other. Each wants to badly to get the other a Christmas present, so unknowingly  they both end up taking a chance and entering a talent show with a fifty dollar prize. I like that it reminds us that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be thankful for what we have and enjoy each other.

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Emmet Otter’s father was dead, and his mother took in washing. There was no electricity out in Frogtown Hollow, and Mrs. Otter did her washing with a washboard and a washtub, all by hand. Emmet rowed up and down the river, from Turtle Bed to Osprey Point, picking up the laundry that Ma’s customers left on their boat landings, and he delivered it when it was done. Emmet hauled the water and he did the chores. He cut the firewood and he stacked it. He went out with the tool chest Pa had left him, and he did odd jobs around the neighborhood. Every day he went out fishing. So there was always something on the table, and between the two of them Emmet and his mother paid the rent and scraped along somehow.

This was the only Emmet I knew until a bunch of babies I know got the name. I can’t help thinking, “Emmet Otter”!  (Now I want to watch the Muppet Family Christmas.)

Silas Marner – George Eliot

I remember a movie version (VHS) of this book sitting on the shelf in our downstairs cupboard when I was a kid. (I think it had been borrowed from an aunt and took a long time to return. I think it was Ben Kingsley on the front.) It took me a long time to realize that Silas Marner was a name; that is was the name of the main character! I thought it must be an old way of saying something else, something like, “silent mourner.” Just thinking about that now, I realized that I was sort of right.

Silas Marner is a really beautiful story. Shortly after I read Silas Marner for the first time I was at a friend’s house (in England.) Her grandparents were over and they asked me about what I had read lately. I mentioned Silas Marner and her grandfather immediately lit up. He said it was a beautiful book. He has studied it for his A levels and had never forgotten it. He could still tell you all about the book decades later. It stayed with him.

Silas Marner has a gentle, quiet kind of power. It is a simple story but a powerful one. A man turns his back on a world that has treated him cruelly. He cares only for money. He only learns to love again through a child who makes her way into his life; he finds a purpose for his life. Of course, there are many other conflicts involved but primarily it is about a man coming back to life. Silas Marner reminds us of the beauty of human relationships and love.

Now that I think of it, it is very fitting that I am writing this on December 1st. Silas Marner, I think, would be an excellent way to prepare for the holidays!