Occasionally I make my way into a flea market or junk shop, and when I do one of the things I seek out is old books. My particular interest is boy's adventure stories from the 1920's and 1930's. A couple of weeks ago while my friend Valerie was still in the States, she and I spent most of a day in Branson. After driving the famous strip, which was fairly deserted, we headed into the old town. While there I found a flea market that had just the right amount of clutter and bargains.
It was in that flea market where I came across a book for older children that was published in 1952 and had been on the shelves of the Mesa County, Colorado, Public Library from 1953 through 1973. And while Arne and the Christmas Star by Alta Halverson Seymour is a very good book, with a smart story and quite a bit of information on Norwegian culture and traditions, it did not seem to have circulated well at the library in Colorado. The book was checked out only twenty-nine times in twenty years.
This book, subtitled A Story of Norway, focuses on a young boy, Arne, who appears to be about twelve. He is growing up in a fishing village on a fiord in Norway in the years just after World War II. All of Arne's adult female relatives are homemakers who putter about cleaning house and baking delicious Scandinavian treats, and the girls, when they are out of school in the summers, go up into the mountains and live in cabins on small farms (called "saeters") where they tend to the animals that summer in the mountains to feast on the tall grass. The girls also practice traditional crafts while they are in the mountains - like making cheese from the milk of the goats that they are tending.
The men hold traditional jobs. Arne's father runs a plant that processes and ships fish, and his older brother, Gustav, is first mate on a ship that carries mail up and down the coast during the summers, and he works on another ship in the fall and winter that travels to South America to deliver and pick-up merchandise. Gustav's winter ship is known as the "Christmas Star" because it brings all of the gifts which people have ordered to port just before Christmas.
Young Arne relishes his life between the mountains and the sea, and he always has much to do. During the winter of this tale, however, h is thrown into a dangerous situation. He is lost in the mountains at night for awhile, but manages to reach safety thanks in large measure to understanding the night sky and being able to follow the celestial Christmas Star. Then he is instrumental in lighting a signal fire to keep his brother's distressed ship, the Christmas Star, from crashing on the rocks along the coast.
And Christmas is saved - along with Gustav and the rest of the ship's crew.
Those with Norwegian or Viking heritage might find Arne and the Christmas Star fun to share with family over the holidays. It provides a nice glimpse into Christmas in a foreign land.