The Christmas Tree: Two Tales for the Holidays
by David Adams Richards
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by Olga Stein
As I read these stories, I had the feeling that if David Adams Richards ever decided to make a real go of writing for young readers, he would do exceptionally well. These days there are so many fine writers penning adventure, science fiction & fantasy, and historical fiction for youngsters that praise would probably do little to motivate a writer of Richards' literary status. Still, it must be said that these two stories¨Richards' first foray into kids' lit, from what I can tell¨have an irresistible comfort food flavour to them.
These two stories are about Christmas, but I think in a secondary sense. First and foremost, they are about childhood and young adulthood in the place Richards comes from: "a place called the `rocks'¨a small community of houses and tough kids, and many cats and dogs. . . a place that has left us in many ways. It is not a town any more but a city, and the names of the streets have changed, and so many of those youth I write about back then are gone away . . . " When Richards asks himself why he is writing about Christmas in that place of long ago, he finds that "many people believe, and perhaps they were taught to, that it is because Christmas is a time of happiness."
I came to Canada as an immigrant. The holidays I recall from my childhood were celebrated in places that were like the `rocks' only because there were plenty of kids, cats, and dogs. And yet, reading Richards' stories takes me back to that time, and the holidays which were always full of happiness and anticipation that I remember to this day.
These two stories aren't perfect. Sometimes the nostalgia and the expression of permanent loss due to the disappearance of neighbourhoods and people from childhood, become a tiresome refrain. Some tighter editing is recommended, but little else. I hope to see more stories for children from this old-fashioned (in the best sense!) raconteur.˛