Saturday, October 31, 2015

One moment in time--Emma Parker's "Papa's Book of Mormon Christmas"

“Have you heard the story about the book that saved Christmas?” Papa asked.

Every couple of months, my roommate and I act like seven-year-olds.  It was her idea years ago to visit the 4th Floor Juvenile Literature section of BYU's Harold B. Lee Library and read picture books all afternoon and it was my notion to do it again.  We occasionally read old favorites--I started that first day with The Polar Express and predictably cried at the ending and she recently read Horton Hears a Who in Spanish.  I've discovered new favorites, like T-Rex at Swan Lake and Science Verse (which has a very unconventional rewrite of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.")  We've also done this all over Utah.

Anyway, all of that introduction leads up to today's book.  I tell you that story because it's one that I wish I  had discovered on one of our picture book Saturdays.

If you look at the "Written by," some of you will recognize the name from my stories about getting my book published.  Hint:  Her bio mentions her being an acquisitions editor.  (Since she is the one who famously told me I had a word count problem, the first thing I looked for was whether or not this broke 100,000.)  But after roughly six months of working out the best things to do for my manuscript, I know the sorts of things that she likes and some of her philosophies on plot and pacing, so I sort of geared myself up to see how well those translated into a bedtime story.

Do I have any complaints about this book?  Well, yes.  Not what you think, thoiugh.  It has nothing to do with the story, the POV, the subject matter, the dialogue...  Actually, all of those are delightful.  I have a problem (predictably) with the length.  I want this to be a full-length novel in which the powerful anecdote that is related from Papa to Alice is explored and given context.  I want to know if this is based on a true story.  I especially want to know the rest of the story because Papa tells about looking for lost soldiers on a Civil War-era Christmas, but doesn't actually say what the result of that quest was.  He says that it turned out to be a pretty good Christmas, but the rest is left up to the imagination.

To borrow an example from one of my favorite movies, think of Up.  Imagine if what we saw of the Ellie/Carl love story was contained in the scrapbook.  We would look at some of those adventures and wish fervently that we could have the rest of the story (as we do in the wonderful montage).  

Given that this is a picture book, I definitely understand the need to keep this story encapsulated, but I feel like I'm looking at a scrapbook with Alice and Papa, so I selfishly want a feature-length motion picture rather than a snapshot.  This is high praise, in case you were wondering.

One of the best things about this story is the realism of the characters.  When originally reading it, I thought "Wow, there is a lot of the story devoted to the behavior of the little girl."  Then I remembered trying to read books with my nephews and how everything is dependent not on the length of the book, but the current fixation of the audience.  (Richard Scarry books can take an hour if you're reading with a car-obsessed four-year-old, for example.)  So when they have to halt the story because Alice is fascinated by the aspects of winter, I absolutely believe that this is how it would be if any wise older person told a story to a child of a certain age.