Book Review: Christmas in Dairyland


Author/Publisher
Christmas in Dairyland
by LeAnn R. Ralph
Published by LeAnn R. Ralph
E6689 970th Ave. Colfax, WI 54730
Printed by Booklocker.com" target="_new">Booklocker.com
ISBN 1-59113-366-1
$13.95, 2003, 153 pages

Reviewer
Boyd Sutton
Siren, Wisconsin
maxdude@centurytel.net

Description of the Book

Christmas in Dairyland is a collection of short, true stories about a little girl growing up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin in the early 1960s. The book tells of life for a young girl and her family-her father, who did the farming; her mother who, despite being disabled by polio, took care of the house and cooking; and a much older brother and sister, both of whom worked and contributed their incomes to the family.

The stories recall preparations for Christmas at home, school, and church, how LeAnn learned about her Norwegian heritage and, most important, the love that pervaded this close-knit mid-20th century American family. As a bonus, Christmas in Dairyland includes tried and true recipes for many of the Norwegian heritage foods featured in the stories, including lefse (wafer-thin potato bread), Julekake (a rich Christmas bread), fattigman (a deep-fried sweet cookie), and a variety of traditional Christmas cookies. For the more adventurous, there is a recipe for lutefisk (cod that has been preserved in lye). Finally, the book includes instructions for making colorful candles using old crayons, paraffin, ice cubes, and milk cartons.

About the Book

This is a heartwarming book about a vanishing way of life. Small dairy farms, with around 30 milking cows, were plentiful when the author was growing up and they provided a warm and loving home for hundreds of thousands of families back then. There are few left today, as small farms have been abandoned, sold for development, or gobbled up by industrial-scale farming operations. Small dairy farms can no longer provide for a family's financial needs. Even then it was a real struggle. But, though such families were often well below the poverty level in strictly financial terms, they were usually wealthy in love and family relationships, as these stories show.

One or more members of the family-the wife, a son, or daughter-usually had an outside job that contributed to the family income. And the farm usually provided sustenance-milk, beef, pork, chicken, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and other produce, while mothers and daughters sewed and knitted to supplement clothing needs.. Most important, farm life developed close-knit, loving families that were strong on self-reliance, responsibility, and respect for hard work. My own wife grew up on such a farm and I have often heard her stories about the joys and difficulties-mostly joys-of growing up that way.

LeAnn R. Ralph's stories tell of the excitement of making ornaments and decorating the Christmas tree in her school room each year (another bygone era) and at home. The annual expedition with her father to select the "just right" tree from the stand of red pine on their farm was one of many experiences that built a strong bond between father and daughter. Then there was the year that she and her older sister climbed a large pine to cut off the very top for their tree because all the other pines had grown so much.

LeAnn learned to make lefse from her mother and tells of the mouth-watering aroma of the freshly made, thin Norwegian bread as she came home from school. "By itself, lefse didn't really taste like much, but once it was spread with butter, sprinkled with sugar and rolled into a log, I would have happily eaten nothing but lefse for breakfast, dinner and supper." It made my mouth water just to read about it and I was happy to find LeAnn's recipe for lefse (and other goodies) at the end of the book.

This is a good book for all ages, from pre-teens through octogenarian. The writing is clear, simple, and direct, easily read by young children, but not so simple as to put off adult readers. Children will connect with

LeAnn's description of a young girl's life on the farm, helping Dad with the chores, helping Mom wrap Christmas presents, yearning for a toboggan, and being surprised by her brother's purchase of a saddle for her pony, Dusty. They'll understand her attempts to get out of wearing boots, heavy coats, and mittens on warm winter days, "just because it might get cold." And some will relate to LeAnn's stark fear of having to stand up in front of all the people at church to sing a solo-memorized in Norwegian-of an old-country Christmas carol. Older folks will feast on the nostalgia, and may get tears in their eyes as they learn how that Norwegian carol affected one old woman in the congregation. People from all generations will enjoy the depiction of a close, loving family as it prepares for and enjoys Christmas in Dairyland.

About the reviewer: Boyd Sutton is president of Northwest Regional Writers and a member of the Yarnspinners critique group. He served for 11 years in the U.S. Army Infantry and Intelligence and wrote professionally as an analyst and manager with CIA for 27 years. He enjoys writing essays, fiction, and humor and has been published in local papers and magazines. Boyd won the Wisconsin Regional Writers' Assoc. Florence Lindemann Humor Contest in 2003. He is working on a spy novel and a nonfiction book addressing how Christian denominational doctrine ("Churchianity") sometimes interferes with Christianity.

About The Author

LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the books: "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm) and "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam." For more information, visit: ruralroute2.com" target="_new">http://ruralroute2.com; bigpines@ruralroute2.com


MORE RESOURCES:
Call Number is a library-inspired monthly book subscription box that celebrates Black literature and authors. Started by Jamillah Gabriel to mesh her two great loves—Black literature and libraries—Call Number is built out of the desire to share the books she loves. Fiction and nonfiction monthly subscriptions are available starting at $20. An excellent choice both for individual readers and smaller libraries looking to build up their collection of Black literature.

The Hogwarts universe is set to expand by an additional two new Harry Potter books, published by Bloomsbury in the UK (and presumably Scholastic in the USA) in conjunction with a British Library event, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the series.

The library exhibition titled, "A History of Magic," featuring the two books will be open from October 2017 to February 2018.

The books, both by the British Library, include unseen sketches and manuscript pages from author J.K. Rowling, magical illustrations from Jim Kay and artifacts from the archives at the library.

J.K. Rowling, in a statement on the Pottermore website, called A History of Magic an "adult edition" and Harry Potter – A Journey Through A History of Magic "a family edition for younger readers."

As a part of the celebration of its centennial this year, the Women's National Book Association has awarded the WNBA Second Century Prize to the Little Free Library. The award, which carries a $5,000 grant, honors "an organization that supports the power of reading, past, present, and into the future,"

The Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization that promotes reading for all ages, but especially children, by building free book exchanges.

Founded in 2009 in Hudson, Wis., by Todd Bol to honor his mother, a schoolteacher, the Little Free Library promotes the building of free book exchanges. There are now more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide, in all 50 states and 70 countries.

The budget battle is kicking up again in Washington, but this time with a note of optimism for libraries and library supporters. Last week, a House Appropriations subcommittee voted to recommend level funding for libraries in FY2018, which would mean roughly $231 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), $183 million for the Library Services and Technology Act, and $27 million for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program.

The vote comes after President Trump in May doubled down on his call to eliminate IMLS and virtually all federal funding for libraries, as well as a host of other vital agencies.

By his own admission, the novelist Junot Díaz is an agonizingly slow writer and a chronic procrastinator. Over the past two-plus decades, he has published just three books: two short-story collections and his 2007 novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

But even by Mr. Díaz's glacial standards, his latest book, Islandborn (March 2018, Dial Books), will be long overdue — about 20 years past deadline. And it's a mere 48 pages long.

According to the New York Times, Islandborn "engages with many of the same themes that Mr. Díaz has wrestled with in his fiction: immigration and identity, the weight of collective memory, and feelings of displacement and belonging." ...

This year's International Thriller Writers' annual awards have been presented to:
Hardcover: Before the Fall, Noah Hawley
First Novel: The Drifter, Nicholas Petrie
Paperback Original: The Body Reader, Anne Frasier
eBook Original: Romeo's Way, James Scott Bell

Liu Xiaobo, the renegade Chinese intellectual who kept vigil at Tiananmen Square in 1989 to protect protesters from encroaching soldiers, promoted a pro-democracy charter that brought him a lengthy prison sentence and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while locked away, died under guard in a hospital on Thursday. He was 61.

(Liu Xiaobo is pronounced approximately Lee-O shau-BO. Liu is his family name, Xiaobo his given name. The first syllable of Xiaobo rhymes with now.)

For the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, the Apple Corporation is authorizing a comic book adaptation of the classic film with Titan Comics. The book is slated for release in 2018.

In a move that had been expected, Bertelsmann has increased its stake in Penguin Random House. After the deal is completed in September, Bertelsmann will have a 75% share of PRH with Pearson controlling the remaining 25%.

Spencer Johnson, a onetime physician and children's book author, whose best-selling books on business management, including "The One-Minute Manager" and "Who Moved My Cheese?," sold millions of copies and inspired a cult-like following, died July 3 at a hospital in Encinitas, Calif. He was 78.

thatware.org ©