The Legend of Holly Claus
by Brittney Ryan
published October 1st 2006 by HarperTrophy
Paperback, 544 pages
isbn 0060585153 (isbn13: 9780060585150)
rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m a crier. I cry most easily when I’m angry, but I also cry when I’m sad, and when I’m happy, and when my kids are being cute, and when there are freshly baked cookies to be had. I’m the person Brian Andreas had it mind when he wrote, “She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life was so short.”
The Legend of Holly Claus is a cry book. It made be cry because of its wonder and beauty. Publishers Weekly said it was a “lush and leisurely Yuletide read.” It’s part of the Julie Andrews Collection, that “offers gentle wisdom for the growing years.” If you’re thinking Tasha Tudor meets Louisa May Alcott, you wouldn’t be far off.
To be honest, I bought it because it was 50% off in the Barnes and Noble after-Christmas sale. The premise looked interesting and the illustrations by award-winning Long are breathtaking.
What I found was one of my new favorite books, one that I will read year after year during the Christmas season.
Nicholas Claus is the King of Forever, the Land of Immortals. When a child writes an unusual Christmas letter, he and Mrs. Claus are granted their hearts’ desire: a child. Their daughter Holly grows up intelligent, kind, and spirited. Unfortunately, she also grows up with her heart frozen inside a block of ice, as part of a complicated curse involving the uber-evil being, Herrikhan. The gates to the Land of the Immortals are barred, so that Immortal may carry out his or her work on Earth, and no new Immortal may enter.
Seeing Holly rather than Herrikhan as the cause of their misfortune, the Immortals shun Holly, so that she reaches adolescence with only animals as her friends. Determined to right the wrong done at her birth, she finds a way to travel to the Empire City – Victorian New York – where she proves herself a truly selfless and strong heroine.
In addition to being sappy and sentimental, I’m also superlatively suspicious. I’m almost impossible to surprise. But Ryan manages a few authentic twists and revelations that amazed even me. The Legend of Holly Claus brims with innocence and goodwill, without pandering to naïveté. I highly recommend it, even – and especially – if you’re a crier.