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:
Fox 2000 has acquired the best-selling novel "Where the Crawdads Sing" and has tapped Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine to produce a feature film adaptation.

Witherspoon's involvement is not a great surprise. The Oscar winner has been a champion of the book, selecting it for inclusion in her Reese's Book Club.

An ongoing crisis in the Brazilian publishing market "that combined steady declines in the price of books with rising inflation" is raising concerns about the future of the book trade in the country, the Guardian reported. Book chain Saraiva, which had announced the closure of 20 stores in October, said late last month that it was filing for bankruptcy protection. Rival chain Cultura has also filed a reorganization plan to avoid bankruptcy. Brazil is in the midst of its worst recession in decades, and the recent election of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro as the country's next president is "sending ripples of fear through the country's cultural community."

Daniel T. Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, compares audio books to print books and concludes that each is best suited to different purposes, and neither is superior:

... listening to a book club selection is not cheating. It's not even cheating to listen while you're at your child's soccer game (at least not as far as the book is concerned). You'll just get different things out of the experience. And different books invite different ways that you want to read them: As the audio format grows more popular, authors are writing more works specifically meant to be heard.

Our richest experiences will come not from treating print and audio interchangeably, but from understanding the differences between them and figuring out how to use them to our advantage - all in the service of hearing what writers are actually trying to tell us.

The UK publishing trade magazine, The Bookseller reports on authors' concerns about the effects of Brexit on the UK publishing industry:

Novelist Joanna Trollope has warned that Theresa May's government will "fatally undermine the whole UK publishing industry" if it fails to protect in law the UK position on exhaustion rights ahead of a major Brexit vote next week.

Trollope joined fellow authors Linda Grant and Joanne Harris to urge the government to ensure the UK's reputation as a world leader in culture and creativity is preserved after Brexit.

The authors were speaking out in support of calls from the Society of Authors (SoA), published in a new briefing, that politicians must protect free movement, copyright and trade while warning the sector is "not to be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations"...

The Strand Bookstore in New York City is asking its many customers to attend a public hearing on Tuesday morning morning to help the store "make a case against landmark status" for its store at 826-828 Broadway. The bookstore is concerned that, if the building is given landmark status, "for every repair and every upgrade, the Strand would have to go through the slow bureaucracy of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which adds to the expenses to keep the Strand alive.... The Strand currently runs on thin margins as a bookseller and retailer in New York City, fighting to survive in the era of Amazon. We have over 230 employees--most whom are unionized--and unlike large online retailers (like Amazon), have never asked or received tax breaks or other economic assistance to insure business profitability."

Ironically, it seems that the move to give the building landmark status is in response to the many new tech hubs that are being built in the area. And so, "in a trade-off, the Strand and a few other buildings along Broadway are now being calendared for landmarking."

The Literary Review has announced an all-male shortlist for that least-coveted of literary prizes, the Bad sex in fiction award.

Haruki Murakami, often named as a contender for the Nobel prize, makes the cut for passages from his latest novel Killing Commendatore ... The controversial US novelist James Frey was selected for a scene in his novel Katerina described by judges as "almost like wish fulfilment" ... continued

In the wake of increasing controversy over the naming of bestselling mystery author Linda Fairstein as one of next year's Grand Master Edgar recipients, Mystery Writers of America has withdrawn the award. Tuesday's announcement had sparked numerous protests on social media and prompted MWA to respond by saying it took the objections seriously and would reexamine the decision. The focus of the protests is Fairstein's role as a member of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in 1989's Central Park Jogger case, which resulted in the wrongful imprisonment for years of five minority teenagers.

The New York Times has an extensive and moving interview with Anna Burns, who won this year's Man Booker Prize for her novel, Milkman which will be published in the USA on December 4:

Burns is one of the more surprising recent winners of the Booker, one of literature's biggest awards. Milkman was this year's outsider, up against Richard Powers' ecological epic The Overstory and Esi Edugyan's heralded slavery-era Washington Black, among others. It was also labeled an "experimental novel" because its characters are nameless and its paragraphs sometimes run for several pages. Her victory provoked think pieces about the "bold choice."

"I don't understand," said Burns, when asked why it had picked up such an awkward label. "Is it the whole nameless thing? Is it really difficult? The book just didn't want names." (The tag does not seem to have put many off buying it. Faber, her British publisher, has sold over 350,000 copies so far...

Netflix will create an original animated series of Roald Dahl stories including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG and The Twits.

"ald Dahl stories have long inspired award-winning feature films and stage productions," Netflix said in its announcement. "But now, for the first time, Netflix will bring together the highest quality creative, visual, and writing teams to extend the stories in this first-of-its-kind slate of premium animated event series and specials for audiences of all ages and for families to enjoy together."

Following two years in which Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale saw a skyrocketing in readership and new cultural relevance, both on television and in society at large, the author has announced a sequel.

The Testaments, set 15 years after the final scene of The Handmaid's Tale, will be published on September 10, 2019, by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, with an announced first printing of 500,000 copies.

thatware.org ©