Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. . .

Today I'd like to share a wonderful children's book with you. I used this book in my classroom for several years. The book came with a CD that featured the deep, rich voice of actor James Earl Jones. The music sets the mood for the feelings & actions of the characters. The illustrations are beautiful & the life lesson taught in the book is priceless. If you have children in your family I highly recommend this book as an addition to your home library.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of the story.

Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (Candlewick, 1995)

Susan Wojciechowski uses the setting of a Western frontier village for her Christmas story about the miraculous and transformational power of love.
His name is Jonathan Toomey, but the children of the village call him Mr. Gloomy. He seldom smiles and never laughs as he walks hunched over, mumbling and grumbling to himself. Most of his time he spends at his workbench, carving wood, for Jonathan Toomey is said to be the best woodcarver in the village.

The reason for Jonathan's gloom and mood is known only to himself: before moving to the valley, he had another life and a wife and baby, both of whom died. Unable to stay in the same place after that, he packed his belongings and "traveled till his tears stopped" to live in a small house at the edge of the village.

One day, his work is interrupted by a knock at the door. It is the widow McDowell and her 7-year-old son Thomas, newcomers to the village. She explains that the Christmas creche, which she has had since she was a girl, was lost in the move, and that she hopes that Jonathan could carve a new one.

Jonathan takes the job, refusing to promise them by Christmas. "Christmas is pish-posh," he says, and shuts the door to set to work. But a few days later, the widow and Thomas are back: Thomas wants to be a woodcarver, and he wants to watch Jonathan work. During the visit and subsequent visits, Jonathan experiences the miraculous transformation.

Wojciechowski develops Jonathan's progress back to fully living subtly and carefully through small and convincing details. There is a gentle rolling rhythm to her precise language and the structure of the story, and she uses images repeatedly to punctuate the story: church bells, wood shavings, the click of the widow's knitting needles. Wojciechowski depicts Jonathan's loneliness and despair as running close to the surface, evoking genuine emotions and responses.


Dawn Marie said...

It does sound like a great story. I will surely look for this for my our grandaughters. they LOVE to read right now and are like sponges. thanks for the tip!

Patsy said...

That will make a great Christmas gift for my little g-grandson's. Thank's

Stacey said...

Sounds like a beautiful story. I just love children's books. :)

Becky K. said...

Sounds like a wonderful story. Sometimes these are the things that stick with us.

We like to read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" each year.

Funny, poignant..

Anonymous said...

I'm going to look for that, my grands are all readers and they love Christmas stories. thank you.


Shelley said...

I'm already hooked! This would be a great gift!

valerie said...

Kenny G!!! My favorite Christmas music!! My cd is a little scratched and has been skipping. I really need to invest in another.

This sounds like a wonderful, meaningful story.
Thanks for sharing. I love JEJ deep, rich voice!

Bo said...

Oh this sounds like a good one...wouldn't it make a great movie! ;-) Bo

Sonya Lee Thompson said...

What a sweet story! I'll have to look into it!

Thanks for sharing


Shauna said...

Stopping by to say I hope you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas! ♥ Hugs :) Shauna

Ruby Red Slippers said...

That book sounds so good-I wrote it down, and will be on the look out for it...and thank you so much for your kind comments on my blog!!!

Rose of Sharon said...

It sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for sharing.

Merry Christmas!


Bargain Decorating with Laurie said...

This story sounds wonderful. I'll be on the lookout for this book. Thank you for the suggestion. laurie

Bill Clark said...

Have a look at the DVD film version of this book - starring Tom Berenger and Joely Richardson - you might like it too.