Meade, Starr. 2008. Keeping Holiday. Illustrations by Justin Gerard. (192 pages). Crossway Publishers.
If there's a resounding theme (or echo) to this Christmas-themed allegory it's this: You can't find the Founder; he finds you. He's not just the Founder, he's the Finder too.
Dylan and Clare, his cousin, are the stars of this allegorical novel. Every year Dylan and his family journey to Holiday (Is it a city or town? I can't quite remember). The singing. The food. The parties. The lights and decorations. The gifts. The church services. Everything about Holiday seems to be magical. Seems to be more special. Dylan wonders why the feeling doesn't last. Why spending time with his family and friends on vacation in Holiday feels so wonderful and so right, but those same activities back home aren't as magical. What is it about Holiday that gives him--and everyone--such a high?
Dylan's curiosity is only deepened when he finds a flyer in the church yard. A flyer asking him if he would like to keep Holiday... and if he does ... to go through the church's garden gate to find out more. He does. But what he discovers is that the Holiday his family has been visiting all these years--the Holiday he's always known and loved--is not the real Holiday. There is a better, richer Holiday. Even more beautiful. Even more wonderful. But this Holiday isn't a place he can enter. Only authorized individuals--people authorized by the Founder--can enter this real city of Holiday.
So Dylan begins his quest to find the Founder. Now, several years later and with his cousin, Clare, by his side. Dylan and Clare discover visitor passes within Holiday's church or chapel--good for four days only--to visit the real city of Holiday. His parents send them off prepared with a big smile--they've been hoping to see him take this journey on his own for years. It's a journey they've already made.
But this journey to the real city of Holiday isn't quite as easy as Dylan hoped it would be. Along the way, Dylan finds out the true meaning behind the symbols of Holiday. Here is where the allegory begins to come in. He encounters talking evergreen trees, a talking mistletoe plant named Missy, a talking poinsettia named Penny, talking bells in a church bell tower, talking stars in the sky, a candle maker, etc. Through his conversations he learns more and more about The Founder and the creation of Holiday.
There are two ways to respond to Keeping Holiday. One is to see it as dinky and didactic. I must admit Missy the Mistletoe doesn't help matters here. But the other way is to appreciate the message--didactic as it may be--because it is important and true and good. I liked the message--finding the real reason for Christmas, learning about the Incarnation, discovering the Savior--a good deal. I think this book could be shared--read aloud perhaps--between parents and children. I appreciated that aspect of it. But I can't lie and say that it isn't a little dinky all the same. If you've read and enjoyed other allegories in the past like Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan or Hinds' Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard...or perhaps R.C. Sproul's line of picture books: The Princes Poison Cup, The Lightlings, The King Without A Shadow, The Priest With Dirty Clothes... then you may be just the right reader for Keeping Holiday.