Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Treasures of the Snow

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia M St John

I thought that for a change of pace I would write about a fictional book!  What is more, it is a novel written for children.   This is one I remember from my childhood -- my mother read it aloud to my brother and me, and now I am reading it to my boys.    I am always so glad when a book I remember from childhood as being truly excellent turns out to be how I remembered it.

In fact, I remember having a conversation with my mom as a teenager and asking:

Why are so many Christian books just .... badly written?   Why can't more Christian writers be like CS Lewis and Patricia M St John?
As I got older, I realized that there were way more first-rate Christian writers than I had ever suspected.  Still, I am grateful for these explicitly Christian writers who wrote well and sympathetically for and about children as real persons.    As CS Lewis wrote, really good books for children do not get left behind in childhood.  They are worthwhile reading for any age and they often impart ideas that grow and bear fruit for the rest of one's life.   I am not sure if I would have stayed Christian if it hadn't been for Lewis, St John and a very few others like them. 

Treasures of the Snow takes place in Switzerland.  I don't want to spoil the story by giving away details, but the theme is "letting the little Jesus into your heart" and how that works out in the lives of three children -- Annette, Lucien, and Annette's little brother Dani who is born on Christmas Day. With the snowy mountain setting and the Christmas setting, it makes a great Advent read-aloud (One caution -- as with most of her books, there is a catastrophe in the plot that ultimately leads to grace and redemption --  in this case, a tragic accident that leads to young Dani being lamed--  though it is sensitively written , it could be emotionally difficult for a young child to handle)

Patricia St John was an English nurse and missionary who worked for many years in Morocco and other places.   Her parents were missionaries, too, and she was born in Brazil.  You can find the first chapter of her autobiography here.  Many of her books for children are set in places that she lived.

This is the first time I've read this book since I was young.   I was looking for something I could read during Morning Time now that we have finished The King of the Golden River.   It's hard to find something that will suit a barely 8 year old, a delayed 11 year old, AND a smart 14 year old.  Last year we spent the whole year on Tolkien, which worked great.  One challenge is that most of the books that aren't too difficult for Kieron (the high schooler) have already been read by him.  

This year, I decided on going with Good Books that he has somehow missed reading.    Andrew Pudewa talks about the value of storing beautiful language patterns in the auditory memory.  He points out that good silent readers who learn to read fairly young often don't get enough formation in this auditory stage because good silent readers don't read the way you hear a good read-aloud.   They take in things in big clumps and often skim through rapidly.  So they don't always get the full value especially of the older books, which often have a poetic resonance that can be missed in a silent read-through. 

With that in mind, I decided that even if Treasures of the Snow is "below" Kieron's reading level and cognitive level, it is still an excellent model of good prose and serious literary handling of sin and grace.   It also opens family conversations on all sorts of things which is definitely part of the purpose of the daily Morning Time. 

Now a note of tragedy:   the in-print edition of the book that I have linked to is apparently an abridged version with a lot of the descriptive passages pulled out to make it easier for modern children to read.  This is apparently similar to what happened to the Melissa Wiley books.    Everyone has their own thoughts on abridgment and its effect on literacy so I don't have to write out mine but I wanted to note it here and recommend the original version if you can get your hands on it.  I haven't seen the abridged version but certainly the version I grew up with was plenty accessible for most children who have been brought up on excellent books.

Edited to add -- if you follow the Amazon link above you will see a picture of the abridged version and you can look at the one-star review to get more details.    The image I used for this post is the cover for our copy of the book which is NOT abridged as far as I can tell.   I think this version is OOP but maybe you can still find it, and maybe knowing what the cover looks like will help.    Hope that clarifies any confusion.   


  1. I loved that book as a child and a "strong silent reader" but had forgotten about it! AND, now I realize I must have read the abridged version because that is exactly what my copy looked like. Ugh! Thanks for putting this back on my radar. I got that book as a gift, and I don't think I ever read anything else by the author. I didn't have much help from my parents at all in figuring out what to read, and I don't think it occurred to me that you could look for more books by a particular author until I was older. What other books of hers would you recommend.

  2. I have Star of Light, and Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John as well. Great books!

  3. As a child I had:

    --Star of Light
    --Rainbow Garden
    --Tanglewood Secret

    Tanglewood Secret was probably my favorite besides Treasures of the Snow, but there is a really sad part.

    Rainbow Garden was just a little bit like The Secret Garden. ... but different too.

    I loved them all though and read them many times.

    There are movie adaptations of a couple of them -- I didn't watch them because I didn't want my childhood imaginations "spoiled" but my kids watched them and liked them and they seem to get good reviews.

  4. Also -- Lindsey -- I put an image of the version that my family has on this post. It is NOT abridged. If you go to Amazon you will see the abridged cover. Also the new version appears to be only about 60 pages long. The old one is a normal-sized book. ... like 120-150 pages (it's downstairs right now).

    I'll edit the post to make that clearer.

  5. Could you please tell me the publisher and the publishing date of the original version? I heard that both Moody and Scripture Union Publishing only publish the revised version. I can only find versions published by these two publishers. Thank you!


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!