Saturday, January 12, 2013

Christmas After All: The Diary of Minnie Swift review

At the age of twelve, Minnie Swift is living through one of the toughest times in America's history, The Great Depression. She keeps a detailed diary over the span of one Christmas month. Reflecting the sadness but also the optimism that characterized the time, this is an intimate portrait of a Midwestern family's days and nights, ups and downs, triumphs and losses. It's the story of one family's persevering spirit: The Christmas Spirit.(goodreads summary)

Christmas will not be the same as others have been in the past for 11 year old Minnie Swift and her family.  She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with 3 older sisters and 1 younger brother. Money and her father's hours at work are slowly dwindling causing many changes for the family. Added to this, she has an orphaned cousin named Willie Faye from Texas who suddenly moves in. Businesses and banks are closing daily and eventually her father looses his job, too. Then unexpectedly one day he disappears, leaving his family startled by his abrupt action only leaving a note telling them not to worry. As Minnie journals her month between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in detail, she finds that faith will help keep her spirit alive during these tough times and there just may be a little Christmas magic left after all.

These have always been great Historical Fiction books for young readers. Filled with facts and so many different characters from different eras, this series has always been a favorite of mine  This story was very detailed and gave an accurate account of life during The Great Depression. For example, Minnie and her family shut off rooms to save on heat, ate meatless meatloaf or added cheese and flour to thicken things up, the loss of jobs and the effects on families, banks shutting down and people losing their money, soup kitchen lines getting longer by the day and I could go on and on about these hardships I learned. Despite the tough times though, the story also had some humor and talked about the Golden Age of Radio as a form of entertainment. The children would wait for their favorite radio programs like Charlie Chan and Buck Rogers. Movies were also a big hit because they were inexpensive and Minnie talked about Greta Garbo and Clark Gable. Her older sister, Lady, adores Hollywood and fashion and I visualized her character well with boas and fancy things she would make for herself inspired by the movies.  I especially connected to this part because I remembered my grandmother when she told me she would go to the movie houses as a young girl, sketch the dresses the stars would wear and then go home to sew one just like it because she had no money to buy them.  Oh, I miss hearing those stories.......One thing that surprised me was the fact that a neighbor friend's father committed suicide by a shotgun. I guess it came as an unexpected entry but it was a sign of the times for many unfortunate families. This part was quick but still haunting that it occurred while the girls were arriving to the friend's birthday party and they had to be shooed home because it happened just at that moment. The character of Willie Faye was also important. She arrived from the Texas Panhandle during the Dust Bowl and showed a very different lifestyle from Minnie and her family. She knew first hand what it was like to do without and brought an inspiration to Minnie. Even though the Swifts were in a tough situation, it still did not keep them from enjoying being a family and making it through the struggles keeping hope in their hearts for a better future. The ending has a wonderful epilogue about how the story is based from the life of the author's mother. There are many interesting pictures with descriptive captions showing the reader a different era that we can only hope will never have to face in our lifetime. After reading this story, I really appreciated my life and I  hope young readers do as well. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 10 -13.~

Title:  Christmas After All: The Diary of Minnie Swift
Author: Kathryn Lasky
Pub. Date: September 2012 (republished) Scholastic
Genre: historical fiction
Hardcover, 187 pgs.


  1. This sounds like England during WWII when everything was in short supply and people had to be inventive with meals.
    Looks like a good read - thanks for posting.

    1. There is so much history our kids still need to learn about. Thank you for adding your own historical note and visiting my post!