Book Review: The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas

The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas
Madeline L’Engle, 1984

Premise: Vicky Austin is always excited in December, but there’s a lot more to be excited about this year, since she’s been cast as an angel in the Christmas Pageant, although her Mother is very pregnant, and who knows whether she’ll be home for Christmas!

This little short story was.... fine. Cute, even. It’s all from little Vicky’s perspective, so the drama is very small and the solutions are very black-and-white. Oh, no! Mommy might be in the hospital over Christmas! Oh, now she’s being sensibly reassured. Oh no! Vicky is too clumsy to be an angel! Oh, Mom just taught her how to walk with a book on her head, so she’ll be fine. Well, good thing there wasn’t any tension.

The title alludes to the Austin family’s habit of doing something “special” every day leading up to Christmas. However, since some of those “special” things are as simple as opening Christmas cards and there isn’t even a list of all the activities for kids to ask about and/or copy, this gimmick fell a little flat.

At the end, it looked as though there was going to be a plot, because the mother starts to go into labor, there’s a blizzard, and the Dad isn’t home... but then the Dad gets home, and since he’s conveniently an obstetrician, the other kids worry a bit, but there isn’t really anything to worry about.

This is a fine story for, say, a five year old. I mean, I wouldn’t give it to a five-year-old of mine unless I was ready to have the “some kids believe in invisible forces that grant wishes” conversation, but other than a smattering of explicitly religious content, it’s pretty innocuous.

In place of this, for a similar feel but more interesting setting and story I might recommend the Christmas chapters from Little House in the Big Woods.