Friday, January 10, 2020

Book Review: Starlight in Tourrone by Suzanne Butler (1965)

Years ago, before any of the children of Tourrone were born, this Provencal village had a beautiful Christmas tradition of processing to an old chapel to visit a baby and its mother acting in the roles of the infant Jesus and the Blessed Mother. After hearing a story about this Christmas March from some of the older residents of Tourrone, the six children who still live in the village decide to revive the procession. Their plans are met with many obstacles, however, including jaded adults who don't think the tradition can be restored to its former glory, a lack of babies in the village, and a sudden weather event that impedes travel. Through it all, the children remain hopeful that God will send them what is required to pull off their plans.

While I enjoyed the setting, plot, and message of this children's Christmas novella, I found it to be a very awkward read-aloud. I was partially intimidated by the French names and words in the text that I did not know how to pronounce, but that's usually a hurdle I can overcome. In this situation, the unfamiliar words just compounded the difficulty of a disjointed writing style that made it really hard for my young listeners, ages 4 and 6, to keep track of all the characters and also follow the plot. I had to stop frequently to recap events of the story, and because I had to explain so much, the emotional pay-off of the ending was buried beneath my side commentary.

I do think the story is a worthwhile read from a religious and literary standpoint, so I'm certainly not going to part with our copy any time soon. I just think it's better as an independent read, and I will probably bring it out again for my oldest to read on her own next year to see how it goes. I will say, too that we read this immediately after The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and that was a really tough act to follow, especially with such a sincere story about a foreign place and time.

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