Thursday, December 11, 2014
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
I didn't mean to have two book reviews by the same author this month, especially with Christmas titles, but it just happened that way. I fell in love with Patricia Polacco's Christmas story, An Orange for Frankie, when I read it for the first time, to my children before bed.
The story is about a large family, the Stowells, who don't have a lot, but have enough and each other, and Christmas is coming. The family holds off on decorating until their Pa gets back from getting their Christmas oranges to put on the mantle, one for each child. It's Frankie's favorite thing about Christmas. Although Pa is taking longer than normal to return, the family distracts themselves with making food and helping a train car full of hobos to wash up with warm bath, eat, and drink hot coffee, perhaps the first real meal they've had in weeks.
Frankie enjoys talking to the men and recognizes some of them from times before. He sees a new man who is older than the others, and notices he doesn't even have a shirt on underneath his threadbare coat. He tells the 'mister' to stay right there and he gets his nicest Christmas sweater (and the only one that fits well, knitted by his sister) to give to the man to keep warm in.
A few days after this encounter, the family is sick with worry over their Pa, as the winter weather has been blowing hard for days. If I told you the two important things that happen in the end of the book, I'd be spoiling the story for you. All that to say, it's a book about kindness, sharing with others who have less, and the love between a family. A longer book than most bedtime stories, but one that is as touching as it is beautifully illustrated, and surely worth the time spent sharing it together.