Alice O. Howell is one of our favorite authors. We first spotted her special understanding of everyday spirituality in The Dove in the Stone and have kept up with her writing through The Beejum Book where she unleashed her truly awesome imaginative powers. This little gem follows in that train.
Lara, whose parents are refugees, never spends much time in the same place. Before World War I, they are on the way to Norway on a train. Lara always finds ways to amuse herself: "The train climbed higher and higher, moving more slowly with the strain. I listened to the sounds of the wheels on the track. They seemed to be saying, 'potato-packer, potato-packer, potato-packer,' sometimes slowly, then sometimes faster. I thought is was funny and started to chant it myself, rocking to and fro."
To protect themselves from the glare of the sun on the snow, Lara and her parents put on goggles. Left alone in the Norwegian hotel, this little girl is befriended by two eccentric Englishmen who teach her to ski. She also meets Andreas, an elderly carpenter who has some wonderful things to teach her about Christmas that open her heart. The text is beautifully amplified by sprightly and charming illustrations by Maggie Mailer.