Quill and Quire

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Apples and Angel Ladders: A Collection of Pioneer Christmas Stories

by Irene Morck, Muriel Wood, illus.

Irene Morck’s Christmas stories are drawn from her father’s experiences as the child of a Danish immigrant family struggling to survive in the 1920s on their farm in Alberta’s central woodlands. Each of the six stories centres around an incident that makes Christmas memorable for Archie (who ages from nine to 16, with a jump to 29 in the epilogue). They range from making the spicy Danish cookies called pebbernodders (recipe given) and cutting paper angel ladders (directions given) to decorate the tree, to the agony of memorizing a piece to recite at the Christmas concert and the joy of choosing a gift from the Eaton’s catalogue. This last was mitigated by the reality that Mama’s egg money, which was used to buy Christmas presents, was often depleted by paying the expenses of the new baby that arrived almost every year.
Each story is illustrated by one colour plate and several black and white spot illustrations in which Muriel Wood captures the warmth of the close-knit family united against the harsh conditions of their farm life. Because these gentle stories are long and full of the details that make social history so interesting, they seem best suited for reading aloud to family groups. The book’s handsome production – with its glossy paper, ribbon bookmark, and elegant endpapers – makes it an attractive gift, possibly from grandparents with similar memories to share.