One for the Books: Christmas stories for all ages

Ho Ho Ho! To get us all in the Christmas mood, here are a few holiday reads from three prolific authors.

“Juniper’s Christmas” by Eoin Colfer is an adventure for imaginative readers of any age.
Santa Claus has hidden himself from the world because of his grief over the death of his beloved wife. He refuses to have anything to do with Christmas. Meanwhile, the elves are trying to find him, because time is running out; if he doesn’t use the Christmas magic soon, it could disappear forever.

Juniper is an 11-year-old girl living with her widowed mother in London. Their feisty friend Duchess is a homeless woman who has lived in a sort of treehouse in the nearby park for 10 years. Juniper’s mom suddenly goes missing, so the girl sets out to find her. In the woods, she stumbles upon Santa and accidentally bonds with one of his reindeer, acquiring a bit of magic herself: “I am the first girl to fly with a reindeer, she realized. And only the second child. And the first with African heritage.”

The Christmas magic (there is no dark magic), the book explains, is “a combination of magic and science.” The author explains, “Polar reindeer are a very special breed who are compatible with magic because they share the same magnetic-field frequency as the magic itself.”

Besides the lovable characters, there are a couple of meanies: one who wants to “clean up” the park by chasing away all the homeless people and one who wants to kidnap Santa and steal his power.

Colfer knows his way around fantasy; he is the author of the popular Artemis Fowl series.

“Christmas Every Day” by Linda Byler is also good for all ages, but would particularly appeal to young people. The main characters are 10-year-old Amish twins Annie and Fannie, and the book is told from their point of view.

There are 12 kids in the family in the big Amish farmhouse — the oldest is 30 — and all are still single, living at home. But throughout the book, several of the siblings approach marriage. (Even though the cover calls the book a “romance,” the actual romances take place in the background, as the girls observe what’s happening with their siblings.)

The story chronicles the girls’ adventures at home, at school, at a horse sale, getting ready for the Christmas program, and watching what their siblings are up to. As Christmas approaches, the girls decide they really need a pony, but their mother is against it.

The book emphasizes faith and prayer in the Amish way of life.

Byler is known for some pretty writing: “In the hills of Kentucky, between two fairly high ridges covered in all manner of trees and flowering shrubs, fallen logs and mushrooms, moss and decayed leaves leftover from last year, a river wound its way along the base, a ribbon of greenish brown water loaded with silt, pebbles, rocks, and fish. Not too far away, the rolling terrain leveled off to an expanse of farm land, crops growing in neat if uneven patches, like a crazy quilt. … Red barns and concrete silos with white or beige or gray farmhouses punctuated the landscape, with undulating roads winding along every which way.”

Byler is the author of several series of Amish novels, some romances, and some for younger readers.

“It Always Snows on Mistletoe Square” by Ali McNamara is also safe for all ages, but since it’s a romance, maybe grown-ups would be more interested in it.

All at once, Elle has just lost her job and her fiancé and her place of residence. It’s also Christmas season, and she’s never liked the holiday. Everything seems hopeless until she sees a want ad for a live-in writer to record the history of a house and its family. Perfect!

When she arrives at the address in the ad, she sees “Christmas House” etched into a plaque beside the door. She meets the house’s owner, Estelle, who explains that the house was built in 1750 and has been passed down to family members. She says, “I want all the stories I know to be written down in one place for posterity. … I don’t want my family’s history to disappear when I do,” because she has no offspring and no family left.

When Estelle starts to tell the first story of the house, set in 1755, something strange happens: “The furniture in the room suddenly begins to fade away,” leaving what looks like an 18th-century parlor. Elle is astounded and says, “That was like some magic trick.” But there’s more mysterious stuff: How does Estelle seems to know way too much about Elle? How did neighbor Ben also happen to rent the house next door at just the right time?

Of course there’s a bit of (clean) romance, rather like a Hallmark Christmas movie, although a few serious topics are touched upon, including HIV, addiction and gambling. Rather implausibly, everything comes together in the end. But then, it’s Christmas magic.

Merry Christmas! Happy reading!

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Mary Louise Ruehr is a books columnist for The Portager. Her One for the Books column previously appeared in the Record-Courier, where she was an editor.