I was first introduced Robin Pulver and her books about five years ago and she has since become one of our family’s favorite authors. When I first thought of this Advent series her book CHRISTMAS FOR A KITTEN came to mind right away, and I am so very glad that Robin agreed to share some thoughts with us today. She is a woman with a welcoming heart and that shows through in all that she does.
On a December day years ago, my family trudged through the snow at a Christmas tree farm, looking for perfection. Perfection, that is, according to our agreed-upon notions: a tree wide enough, tall enough, fragrant enough to occupy a place in our home.
I don’t recall what tree we found that holiday season. What I do remember is the pretty calico cat that romped along with us. The owners of the farm told me that unwanted kittens are often tossed from cars along their country road. This one survived. They welcomed it into their family.
That memory inspired me to write the story for my children’s book, CHRISTMAS FOR A KITTEN, and its sequel, CHRISTMAS KITTEN HOME AT LAST, about an abandoned kitten’s search for belonging. Layne Johnson’s gorgeous oil painting illustrations enhance the feelings of loneliness, struggle, and finally, warmth and joy. (Layne even adopted a kitten himself to use as a model!)
A parent emailed me that her children received CHRISTMAS FOR A KITTEN as a gift. But she couldn’t let them read it. How could you write such a story, she asked, where an innocent kitten gets treated so cruelly? It’s too sad for children. What kind of person are you? I was shaken by her message, but… my goodness! Life isn’t perfect. Life can be dreadfully hard for homeless kittens, for people too, for any living creature! Hope is what gets us through.
A wonderful thing about picture books is that they expose children to other worlds and experiences in a shared, reassuring laptime way. Picture books allow adult and child to turn the pages at their own pace, to ponder words and illustrations together. Usually, children’s books, especially picture books, offer hope. At the end of each of my books, the kitten is welcomed into a loving home. Could there be a happier, more hopeful ending than that?
For my husband and me, welcoming has meant coming to grips with raising a child with challenging handicaps—not the perfect son we’d imagined, but absolutely perfect in his own way. And then, years later, his being welcomed—to our great and joyful good fortune—into a group home and the extended family of caretaker staff and housemates and their families.
Welcoming for us has meant embracing a wonderful son-in-law and our daughter’s conversion to his Jewish faith. It has meant gladly putting off our celebration of Christmas until a few days after Dec. 25, when they can be with us. ( Son-in-law works on Christmas day, so his co-workers won’t have to.) We love joining their Shabbat dinners when we visit them in Canada. Their marriage has spiritually enriched our family.
From life itself as well as from sharing picture books with children, we glean opportunities to grow in understanding, empathy, and love.
Would Joseph and Mary have imagined a stable as the perfect place for their babe to be born? No. But through the centuries, it has become iconic as a welcoming place. The Christmas message is not one of perfection. It’s a message of welcome. And hope. For everyone.
So tell me: What would a perfect tree look like, anyhow?