Christmas Around the World

From 1951-1956, Alta Halverson Seymour wrote a charming series of Christmas books for children, which are perfectly suited to family read-aloud during the holidays. The series, published by Wilcox and Follett Company, was titled “Christmas Around the World,” and it includes six books set in Norway, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, and Ireland. On this page, we will give a short review of each, as well as another Christmas book written by Seymour, which is not part of the series, a true story of her father’s childhood, A Grandma For Christmas. I truly love this series and think it would bless many homes. It could be the foundation of new family traditions anywhere. You can learn more about Seymour and this series at Biblioguides here.

You may be interested in our interview with Jill Morgan of Purple House Press and Tanya Arnold of BIblioguides about Alta Seymour. You can find that here:

Some notes about the series overall:

The books were considered unicorns (books that are extremely difficult to find for purchase) as not many were printed, and of those that were, few remain in circulation. Thankfully, Purple House Press has opted to reprint nearly all of them, along with many other Seymour books, and we could not be more grateful. I decided to buy them as a set because it was a lovely savings. I am so glad I did. If I were a grandma, I would be buying a set for each of my children’s homes. You can find the set here with matching covers and lovely printing. The set includes five of the six books in the series that PHP has printed as well as A Grandma For Christmas. As usual, we have no affiliate link with Purple House Press, we are just grateful that they are bringing these books back with such loving care.

A Grandma For Christmas

This loving retelling of a special Christmas Seymour’s father had as a boy is Norway is the jewel in the collection. A short read of only 59 pages (plus a few extra pages of Christmas recipes), it is warm and lovely, and full of goodness. It is also exciting and perfect for boys. And, the Purple House Press reprint has full-color illustrations generously spread across nearly every page.

Gunnuf, a ten-year-old Norwegian boy, lives on his family’s farm with his large extended family, and loves to fish, ice fish, ski, sled, and help with all of the traditional family work that makes this vibrant farm a real homestead. Gunnuf is a friendly soul who longs to do things well. His oldest brother Ole is nearly a man, but he still takes a careful and kind interest in his little brother.

Gunnuf wants so badly to be able to participate in the regional Christmas ski meet, but his father is concerned that he is too young, a bit immature, and not yet capable of handling such a responsibility. His brother Ole helps Gunnuf to practice anyway in the hopes that it will aid him in future competitions. And so, daily, Gunnuf goes up the mountain to do his practicing. While there, he routinely checks in on old Fru Solem, who lives alone with her goat and her cat in a mountain cottage. Fru Solem and Gunnuf are good friends, and Gunnuf makes sure the older lady has enough firewood and other little necessities. One day, however, things are not as they should be, and Gunnuf proves to himself and everyone else that he is indeed quite responsible and capable.

This story is heartwarming and beautiful. In addition to being a celebration of family life, it is a great story about the goodness of boys. I think mamas of boys will rejoice to have such a story to share with their little men.

The Christmas Stove

When 11-year-old Peter and 8-year-old Trudi lose their parents in an avalanche, they make the difficult journey down the mountain to the village of Zimmerli, looking for their Tante Maria in the hopes that she will adopt them. The children arrive a few weeks before Christmas to find a kind-hearted but sickly woman who is quite poor. Together, the three of them share the struggle for existence and feast on the love they have for each other. A sweet and innocent story, this one reminds a little bit of Ralph Moody’s Mary Emma and Company.

Tante Maria, a seamstress by trade, has very little to share with her niece and nephew, but it is just exactly what everyone needs. Because of a long illness, her money has nearly run out, but her home is full of love and becomes a place of stability for hardworking and creative children.

Alta Halverson Seymour’s father was a grocer in Wisconsin when Alta was a young child. In this story, Tante Maria sends Peter to the small grocery store in search of some food and the possibility of some work. The young couple who own the store are generous and good; I suspect that Seymour patterned them after her own parents. The Elmers hire Peter to help with stocking the shelves in the mornings before school and pay him generously in food and necessities. They also hire Trudi to mind their baby so that Frau Elmer can help her husband with the customers.

In Tante Maria’s home, there is a beautiful porcelain stove that is covered in tiles that depict Christmas scenes. This stove becomes an important part of the story, and the corner of nearly every page of the book is embellished with pictures from the tiles.

As is appropriate in a Christmas story, there is a grumpy old woodworker (maybe a bit like “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey”), a sharpish old busybody, and the young grocer and his wife living far away from friends and family. The storylines of each converge around the Christmas stove in just the right way.

Parents of Small Children: there is discussion of Santa Claus in this story. Trudi very much believes in Santa, but Peter and Tante Maria exchange looks and small comments about being afraid of Trudi being disappointed. If you were to do this as a read-aloud, you could modify it. At only 94 pages, you could quickly pre-read and get a sense of whether or not it would fit well with your family right now.

The Christmas Compass

Review Coming Soon

The Christmas Camera

Review Coming Soon

The Christmas Star

Review Coming Soon

The Christmas Donkey

Review Coming Soon

The Top O’ Christmas Morning

Review Coming Soon