Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas is for Children by Rosie Clarke: Excerpt, Review and Giveaway!

Welcome!  Rosie Clarke is happily married and lives in East Anglia, England. Writing books is her passion.  She also likes to read, watch good films, and take holidays in the sunshine.   Rosie has an addiction to shoes and loves animals especially squirrels and dogs.  She has written The Mulberry Lane Series, The Workshop Girls series, Christmas is for Children, and the new Welcome to Harpers Emporium series (it is just charming).  Readers can find Rosie Clarke on Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter.  
About the Book

Christmas is for Children by Rosie Clarke carries readers back in time to November of 1932 in the East End of London.  Robbie Graham is a widower with two young children.  Dock work has slowly been drying up since the beginning of the Depression and, after Robbie defended a man, he has been blacklisted.  The kids miss their mother, are hungry and their clothing is worn out and too small.  Robbie needs to find a way to provide for his children and, with Christmas fast approaching, he would like to do something special for them. 

Flo Hawkins owns and operates a cake shop with the assistance of her daughter, Honour.  They also take care of their invalid and demanding father, Ernest.  Since Ernest had his second stroke that confined him to bed, his attitude and language have taken a downturn.  What no one knows is that Honour is Flo’s daughter.  Flo fell in love with Honour’s father, but he did not stand by her when she told him about the pregnancy.  Flo spends her Friday evenings helping at Reverend John Hansen’s mission.  They provide a meal everyday to the poor and on Friday evenings they have games and raffles.  The money they earn from the raffles helps provide something special for Christmas for those in the East End.  Flo and Honour would like to do something extra this year for the kids in the area.  Life is hard for those in the East End, but they have each other.  Neighbors, friends and family come together to help each other out especially during the holiday season.  What happens when someone attempts to thwart the special Christmas plans they have planned? 
A Christmas hamper being opened by enthusiastic orphan boys from the Foundling Hospital at Redhill in Surrey, 1932.
My Thoughts

I found Christmas is for Children to be a well-crafted novel.  The author takes the time set up the story.  We are given descriptions of the East End, the docks, the shops, the homes and the people.  Many of the inhabitants live in dilapidated homes that need to be torn down.  Some do not have running water or indoor toilets.  Work is scarce making it hard to provide for families.  Ms. Clarke paints a realistic picture along with well-developed characters.  I only summarized a small portion of the story above.  We get to see things from a working man’s point-of-view along with a shop owner, children, a vicar, a nurse and an elderly couple.  I like that we get different perspectives.  It is heartwarming to see how they help each other and share what little they have with others.  There was so much hardship, suffering and hopelessness.  It was nice to see the characters develop as the story progresses.  The pace is gentle.  It is not fast nor is it slow, but it does suit the story.  We see the importance of having hope, a good heart, and knowing right from wrong.  Rosie Clarke created a novel that draws in the reader and keeps their attention until the very last word.  Christmas is for Children will leave you with a positive impression, a smile on your face, and happiness in your heart.
Children's Christmas Party, London (1932) by EO Hoppé

It was the beginning of December now and the cake shop had pretty coloured lights in its windows when the two children approached hand in hand. They pressed their noses up against the glass, looking longingly at the delicate glass stands with their offerings of delicious cakes. There were all kinds of mouth-watering treats: sponge cakes dusted with icing sugar and filled with buttercream, soft buns covered in sticky pink icing, almond tarts, madeleines and rock cakes, crisp meringues filled with buttery cream, as well as the beautiful iced Christmas cake right in the centre. Also, piled up in little glass dishes, were chunks of coconut ice, chocolate truffles, fudge and, the best of all, right at the front of the window, two sugar mice: a pink one and a white one.
A photo of a christmas tree cake covered in buttercream pine trees and dusted with powdered sugar
‘Look, Ben,’ Ruthie cried. ‘Sugar mouses… pink for me and white for you…’ ‘It’s sugar mice, Ruthie,’ Ben said, looking at the sweet treat as longingly as his sister. ‘Perhaps Dad will get us one each for Christmas …’

Ruthie looked up at him, her eyes large and dark blue like her late mother’s but filled with knowledge that a child of her age should not have. A single tear slid down her cheek, because she knew they wouldn’t get a stocking this year. Their dad was out of work again; last night he hadn’t even had a shilling for the gas and he’d lit a candle to see them to bed. She knew he lined up down the docks every morning hoping to be given a job, because Ben had told her that was why he was so miserable.

Everything was horrible in Ruthie’s world. Ma had died nearly nine months ago and since then things had got steadily worse. The house was often cold and empty, no food in the pantry. No one looked after her any more; her clothes split and got dirty, and her pale hair tangled; she needed someone to brush and comb it and put it into plaits, because it was so fine that otherwise it went all over the place in the wind.
Christmas cooking with kids
Mum had done her best while she was able. She’d cooked and scrubbed and looked after her kids, but over the last two years her cough had got worse and worse. The doctor said it was bronchitis and wanted to send her away to a place at the sea where she might get better, but they didn’t have any money and there was a long waiting list for such places if you were poor. Mum had finally died in March, and that had left them alone with their father.  He did his best but it wasn’t the same without Mum.

Dad got up early to give them breakfast before he went down to the docks to stand in line, but the work was scarce and more often than not he came home without even a shilling in pay – and when he did, he often stopped at the pub at the end of Fettle Street to have a drink. His mates who had worked that day shared a few pence when he was broke and so when he had work he repaid them by buying drinks he could not afford. Sometimes, when he was very down he didn’t stop at one drink, and when he came home, he was laughing but couldn’t stand up properly – and those days there was never any money for the gas meter and very little to eat.
The London Inn, Fore St,Wellington, Somerset demolished 1932 for road widening. The fate of thousands of our most historic buildings .
Ben told his sister it didn’t matter. Their Dad wasn’t a bad man; he wasn’t a violent man who knocked his kids about and deliberately neglected them. Robbie did as much as he could for his kids, but recently he’d been passed over for all the better jobs. Ben had heard him telling Fred at the fish shop that the Gaffer didn’t like him because he’d stood up for one of the older men.

‘You should go to Mr Penniworth,’ Fred had told him. I’m sure he doesn’t know how unfairly the Gaffer treats the men.’ Mr Penniworth was the overall manager for the East India Docks, but the men hardly ever saw him on the dock and no one went to his office unless invited.  ‘I couldn’t do that, Fred,’ Robbie had sighed. ‘I’d be marked as a troublemaker and then I wouldn’t get work anywhere in London.’

‘Well, it’s a rotten shame, that’s all I can say. You’re a decent man, Robbie Graham, and you deserve a bit of luck.’  Dad had laughed and thanked him for his kind words, paying a shilling for two fishcakes and sixpence worth of chips. Fred had filled the bag right to the brim and Ben, his sister and their father had eaten well that night, but that was days ago now and it had just been bread and dripping since.
Fish and Chips - a British culinary culture. #World #Culture
It didn’t matter to Ben that he had shoes that were down at the heel, holes in his socks and didn’t get a threepenny piece for sweets on a Saturday like some of his friends. He knew that times were hard and money was tight. Ben wasn’t the only boy in school with trousers bought off the second-hand stall and cut down to fit. Nor did he mind that he and Ruthie had to come home to an empty house after school. He could get their tea, a bit of bread and jam or some chips if Dad gave them three pennies. What made Ben unhappy was the way his father’s shoulders hunched when he came home at night with a few coppers in his pocket after working hard all day.

The old cottage belonged to Ben’s father, because it had been left to them by his grandfather, who had been a seaman all his life, and it was the reason they’d all come to live here, leaving the rooms they’d rented near his mother’s home in Yarmouth. It wasn’t really much of a place, but it was somewhere warm to sleep, because the range in the kitchen heated that room and the rooms above it. The only time they ever used the parlour was when Ben’s mother died and her coffin stood there for three days before the funeral.

‘Look,’ Ruthie pulled at Ben’s sleeve as the door of the sweet shop opened and the nice lady came out. ‘It’s Miss Flo…’  ‘Hello, you two,’ Flo Hawkins greeted the children with a smile. ‘It’s cold this evening. You should hurry home, because I think it might snow.’ 
A traditional English dtocking stuffer.  Brighton / East Sussex: Sugar mice in shop window by wwwuppertal, via Flickr
‘I like your sugar mouses,’ Ruthie said and gave them a last lingering look before Ben took her hand firmly. ‘When I see them, I think it will soon be Christmas.’ ‘Yes, it will,’ Flo agreed. She held out a brown paper bag to them. ‘It’s almost time to close – and these won’t keep until the morning. I thought you might like them.’

‘Oo, thank you,’ Ruthie squealed in excitement and took the bag quickly before Flo could change her mind. ‘It’s ever so kind of you, Miss Flo.’  ‘It’s perfectly all right,’ she said. ‘Perhaps your father will buy you a sugar mouse for Christmas.’
Ruthie shook her head sadly. ‘Dad can’t find a proper job,’ she said and pulled at Ben’s hand. ‘Miss Flo gave us buns with icing on top. I love your buns, Miss Flo.’
There are some things that are just quintessentially Easter. Of course, you've got your chocolate bunnies and a plethora of egg-shaped trea...
‘You’re very kind, miss,’ Ben thanked her a little stiffly, because it wasn’t the first time the cake shop lady had given them a cake she claimed wouldn’t last until the morning, but every time it was fresh and delicious. ‘I’ll clean yer windows for yer if yer like, miss.’

‘Thank you, Ben, but my sister does them every morning herself,’ Flo said. ‘One day I’ll find a job for you, but you don’t have to work to pay me for a cake I can’t sell…’  With that she went back into the shop and closed the door.  Ben took his sister firmly by the hand. ‘Don’t eat yer cake until we get home, Ruthie. It’s rude to eat in the street.’

‘I’m ’ungry,’ Ruthie grumbled and her tummy rumbled to prove it, but she kept the bag shut, holding on tightly so that she wouldn’t lose it.  ‘Dad wouldn’t like us taking charity,’ Ben said. His eyes were stinging with the tears he was fighting. Miss Flo’s kindness always made him want to fling his arms round her and hug her, but his pride held him back.  ‘It isn’t chari— whatsit…’ Ruthie said and pulled on his hand. ‘Miss Flo is just a nice lady and she told us the cakes wouldn’t last until the mornin’…’
 Familie Sanders vertrekt met haar "Buick", zo luidt het onderschrift bij een ander foto in dit album dat in 1932 aan het echtpaar werd geschonken door Lim ...
I hope that the excerpt has enticed you to pick a copy of Christmas is for Children.  It is available at Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Amazon UK, and Google Play.  If you would like an opportunity to win a digital copy of Christmas is for Children, please leave a comment with your email address so I can contact you if you win (you can use email(at)hotmail(dot)com format to avoid spambots).  The contest ends on December 27 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  If you prefer, you can email me at with the title of the book in the subject line.  Make sure to include your name and email where you would like the digital book sent (in case you win).  Good Luck!  I will be back tomorrow with The More the Merrier by Linda Byler.  May you have a merry day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Reminds me of my Dad's Mother, my grandmother and what she may have looked like as a child.
*This post contains affiliate links.

No comments:

Post a Comment