In a small book written in 1969, Trina Schart Hyman tells the story of an earnest little girl who had only heard of about Christmas but didn’t know what it was. Being sensible, as well as resourceful, curious and determined, the little girl “. . . set out, as many others have done before, for the Great Snow Forest of the North, to look for Christmas.”
In her quest, the girl finds companions, each of whom has a special talent for finding Christmas. The talents, or gifts, are touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound – represented by a cat who was a “straightforward, motherly soul”, a sad-faced hound, ”nosing his way from tree to tree”, a regal looking hawk who joined the little troop by flying ahead at a “sedate height”, and a wise old fox who spoke like an old-fashioned gentlemen. “Whither away?” he asked. Finally, the group was joined by a mocking bird so attuned to sounds that he amused himself by pretending he was a nightingale.
At last, the entourage finds an object which they believe to be a Christmas. What it is and what they each think about it, I must leave to the reader so as not to spoil the story.
Although not a typical Christmas story in the Christian sense, this old treasure awakens in us the notion that Christmas is often what we make of it. In today’s hustle and bustle, it may best be found in the great quiet forest of our own quest for something/someone startling and solitary, something that shines with the setting sun until “it became as fire and ice, and as the sea and summer.”
The language is poetic, with a ‘grown-up’ quality that speaks to the solemn heart of the child as well as the child within every adult, and the pictures are a perfect complement to the story.
It may be difficult to get your hands on the book; if you Google the title, you will get some idea of what the book looks like. Meanwhile keep your eye out. It’s an oldie but goodie for sure.
How Six Found Christmas. Written and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Holiday House/NY, 1969.
Reviewed by Mary Navarre, OP
Aquinas College Professor Emeritus
Grand Rapids, MI