Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: Keeping Holiday

Keeping Holiday. Starr Meade. Illustrated by Justin Gerard. 2008. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

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.

Readers first meet Dylan as he is on a trip with his parents to Holiday. (Everyone seems to vacation in Holiday and have a wonderful time there!) He's a curious child, and, he wants to know what makes Holiday so wonderful and special. Back home, he can get together with friends and family, eat a meal, sing songs, and, it's never as magical as it is when it's done in Holiday. His parents aren't the best at answering Dylan's questions. And Dylan is probably right to be slightly irritated that his questions aren't answered satisfactorily. On the other hand, it does keep him curious or seeking. One year, he finds a flyer with a bit of an invitation to go to the real Holiday and learn how to keep Holiday with him all through the year. He wants answers, and he wants them now, but answers are very slow in coming. In fact, it will be YEARS before he begins to get answers to his questions, years before he makes his way to the gate/door that leads to the path that leads to Holiday. (It turns out that the Holiday he knows and loves is ONLY THE VISITOR CENTER.)

Dylan has a cousin, Clare, and together these two will go down the path that leads to Holiday. (As I mentioned, at least several years have passed since readers first met Dylan.) Together these two will have adventures and misadventures on their journey. Each chapter often introduces them to a new character or two. Each chapter has a lesson to learn, an insight for readers. To add some tension, I suppose, the two have a time limit. They have four days and only four days to reach Holiday and get authorized tickets/passes from the Founder. They have visitors passes at the moment, and, I think they can only get visitor's passes the one time. So it's extremely urgent that they stay on task and focus. 

The big-picture of this one makes complete sense. It's in the little details of the allegory that I begin to back away a bit. I suppose many allegories are like that though. For example, I'm glad that God gives us a whole lifetime to seek Him and find Him, and opportunities to turn to Him. Not just four days!!! I'm also glad that God doesn't make us wait. It bothers me that Dylan was curious for years about the Founder and that his parents were so passive and dismissed all his questions with, well, one day you'll probably learn for yourself. It bothers me that Dylan wanted to find the gate/door for years and couldn't.  One thing I did like, however, was the character of Mr. Smith. And the role he played throughout this one. How he kept showing up again and again and again, doing anything, saying anything, trying his hardest and his best to keep the children off the right path and away from Holiday. I think that was effectively done. I think some of the challenges--like the dark alley--worked well. But there were just a few little things here and there that didn't work for me. 

This is the third time I've read Keeping Holiday. I also read it in 2008 and 2012. I think I enjoy it more each time I read it. That being said, I'm not convinced it is the best, best Christmas book ever. (I love The Best Christmas Pageant Ever). 

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