This book resonates with me because of the lessons it teaches, but the great thing is that Patricia C. McKissack gets these lessons across so well that kids who read it won’t feel like they’re being “preached” at. Three of the most important lessons I got from the book are:
1. People are more important than things
First, McKissack does a beautiful job of demonstrating through a bit of humor that people are indeed more important than things. When Nella first claims Baby Betty as her own, she has a great time playing all alone with her…for a while. Then Nella gets increasingly frustrated when Baby Betty doesn’t respond to her stories or songs until she finally sees her sisters in the other room having a great time playing together and feels sad and lonely. It’s not until she invites her sisters to join her and Baby Betty for tea that she truly has a good time. In fact EVERYONE has a good time, and Nella is finally able to say it was the best Christmas ever.
2. Be thankful for what you have
The second lesson the book teaches us it to be thankful for what you have. The Pearson’s have to fill the cracks and line the walls with newspaper to keep the cold out. They are in the Great Depression, and money (and work and food and toys) is hard to come by. Yet, when the girls receive their bags of raisins and nuts for Christmas, they are very pleased because it’s the most they’ve ever received. And when they get the Baby Betty doll, they are excited beyond belief. Children who are used to receiving tons and tons of gifts may be horrified at the meager gifts the girls receive, and it’s a perfect opportunity to let them know that are many kids out there who are less fortunate than them. It could also be a good time to introduce them to charitable giving and get them involved in helping out kids who are less fortunate. Perhaps volunteer at a local food bank, participate in a toy drive, or “adopt a family” for the holidays. Your children may have great pleasure going out and finding the ”perfect” gift.
3. Share what you are fortunate enough to have
Finally, McKissack shows us that by sharing what you do have, everyone wins. Nella is miserable until she asks her sisters to join in the fun and have tea with “their” Baby Betty doll. A great lesson, especially if you have kids who squabble over toys and other things a lot.