by Ron Cook
“Draw close to the fire, all you who believe in the spirit of Christmas, whether you call it Santa Claus, or simply good will to men; and listen to the story of Nicholas the wandering orphan who became Nicholas, the lover of children.”
This is the opening to a book written in 1932 by the author Julie Lane, illustrated by Hokie. I found this magical story 50 years later in some discarded books from my very first classroom as a teacher. It looked like fun, so I saved it. I read it to my 4th grade class that year. It was a big hit! As time went on, I married, and had children of my own. We started to read it to our children as soon as they were old enough to listen for a chapter. It became our tradition to begin the book after Thanksgiving dinner. We usually finished it’s magically wonderful ending on Christmas Eve.
I won’t give away the story, but it takes place in a fishing village in the Balkans. The story tells a beautiful tale of tragedy, kindness, childhood, and a village that shares the life of a gentle generous soul. In a delightful way you will learn how Nicholas became interested in children, how and why he started to make toys. You will find out how the first Christmas tree tradition was started, why holly became associated with Christmas, why Nicholas climbed down a chimney, and why he has a sleigh and uses reindeer.
I have read this story over the years to my children as well as my grandchildren. This year I have a new great-grandchild. We start with a fire and make hot cocoa. Over the years I have given copies of this dear book to all of my children. It will bring tears, laughter, and a sweet spirit to the holiday season.
If you might be looking for something children (and adults I have found) will love as a holiday tradition, this could be the book for you!
You can find it in paperback as well as hardcover online very reasonably priced. Some book stores may also have it. Read it first, and then share it!