Young Jo, her infant brother, and ill, single mother are cast out into the elements on Christmas Eve. Though Jo plans to leave town on a bus with her family, the fierce, unruly winter wind pushes them in the direction of Franklin Murdoch’s barn and house. Jo is afraid of the man, known in the community as mean and crusty; the death of his wife and baby on a Christmas Eve long ago had apparently turned him into a nasty person.
Still, Jo forges on, bringing her brother to safety in the barn, and then going back to bring her mother. But a surprise awaits Jo that forces her to make a brave choice and changes her perspective on Franklin Murdoch.
This charming Christmas picture book has a unique history. Author Stephanie Simpson McLellan explains that a project was piloted with 1,700 primary students from 2015-2017 in every province and territory of Canada, and with four grade one classes in Melbourne, Australia. She writes, “A unique literacy experiment, this project had students from JK-Grade 6 listening to a story in a format akin to an old, serialized radio show. Each week, for eight weeks, an audio portion of a story was uploaded to their class webpage and they were asked to illustrate what they imagined… Fuelled by my desktop computer in Newmarket, Ontario, this project brought students back in time to when things were un-googleable, and wonder and wait weren’t foreign words.”