‘The Lit­tlest Christ­mas Ket­tle’

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes bur­tonj@nfld.net

You know Christ­mas is just around the cor­ner when the Sal­va­tion Army kicks off its Ket­tle Cam­paign.

In Bay Roberts, the ket­tles went out on Nov. 27, with the kick­off held at Pow­ell’s Su­per­mar­ket. They will re­main in place un­til Dec. 23.

The 2014 goal is $17,500. Ma­jor Ross Bun­gay of the Bay Roberts corps says that fig­ure is “based on the re­sults of last year, both in ket­tle in­come and ex­pen­di­tures for Christ­mas ham­pers and other helps re­quested within 12 months fol­low­ing Christ­mas.”

Now, Deb­o­rah L. Cran­ford, an Amer­i­can Army of­fi­cer with ties to New­found­land, has re-re­leased her chil­dren’s book, “The Lit­tlest Christ­mas Ket­tle.”

Debbi’s New­found­land con­nec­tion is through her hus­band’s fam­ily. Paul Cran­ford’s grand­fa­ther, Thomas Allen Cran­ford, and fa­ther, Allen Thomas Cran­ford, were born in New Har­bour. Thomas Allen was a third-gen­er­a­tion Cran­ford in New­found­land, while his grand­fa­ther, George W. Cran­ford, im­mi­grated to the is­land from Dart­mouth, Eng­land, in the late 1700s to early 1800s.

In 2008, Debbi helped the Army in Myr­tle Beach, SC, for the Christ­mas sea­son by ring­ing a bell at a ket­tle.

She writes in an email in­ter­view with me that sev­eral chil­dren passed by, point­ing at the ket­tle and ask­ing their par­ents, “What’s that?”

“Many par­ents stopped to let me ex­plain that the money is used to help fam­i­lies that might need more food and cloth­ing than they can buy. But some par­ents did not stop.”

It oc­curred to Debbi that those chil­dren might never know why the Army col­lects money at Christ­mas.

“I thought that if chil­dren be­come fa­mil­iar with the ket­tle, they will be more will­ing to be donors as adults.”

To­day’s chil­dren learn well through com­put­ers and hand­held elec­tronic de­vices, skills Debbi says she lacks. So, she de­cided to “go the old-fash­ioned route and craft a story.”

The au­thor is on a mis­sion: to find a pur­pose for Sal­lie, the lit­tlest Christ­mas ket­tle. The story, which is brought to life through colour­ful il­lus­tra­tions by Michael R. Cormier, chron­i­cles a com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether to find ways to raise money and bring joy to those less for­tu­nate dur­ing Christ­mas.

The book, which was pub­lished in the States in 2012, was well re­ceived in Army cir­cles, sell­ing nearly 85 per­cent of the 10,000 copies printed be­fore Christ­mas of that year.

Last year while the Cran­fords were va­ca­tion­ing in New­found­land, Paul in­tro­duced his wife’s book to Garry Cran­ford and his son Jerry, both of whom are in­volved with Flanker Press (Paul and Garry share a great-grand­fa­ther). They agreed to re­lease the book in Canada.

“The idea of a talk­ing ket­tle that only a six-year-old could hear came almost im­me­di­ately,” Debbi ex­plains. “From that, the char­ac­ters and the story took shape. By the end of my shift that day, the pre­lim­i­nary sketch of the story was com­plete, and I knew the first line of chap­ter one had to be, ‘ Anna heard quiet sobs com­ing from the big wooden bin.’ “

Be­cause the premise of a talk­ing ket­tle is a hard sell to adults, Debbi knew her book had to be for chil­dren.

At the same time, the story has sev­eral lessons for adults.

For one, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Anna and her par­ents mod­els good parenting skills of pa­tience, un­der­stand­ing and lead­ing a child into prob­lem-solv­ing skills. “The pro­gres­sion of the sto­ry­line lent it­self to real-life ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Se­condly, adults will see in­stances of cri­sis man­age­ment and co­op­er­a­tion.

Debbi hopes her book will be an en­ter­tain­ing way to ed­u­cate chil­dren about the Army’s Christ­mas ket­tle. The events nar­rated may cause both chil­dren and adults to “think of new ways to help oth­ers who are less for­tu­nate.”

As well, the fam­ily dy­nam­ics be­tween Anna and her par­ents “will en­cour­age the ex­am­i­na­tion of the reader’s own fam­ily sit­u­a­tion.”

The Christ­mas ket­tle is, per­haps, the Army’s most noted icon. It was first used in San Francisco in 1891, when Capt. Joseph McPhee was de­ter­mined to pro­vide free Christ­mas din­ners to the poor. He re­called a large iron ket­tle that stood on a boat land­ing in his na­tive Liver­pool, Eng­land, where re­turn­ing sailors and pedes­tri­ans tossed in a spare coin to help the poor. Fol­low­ing suit, he placed a ket­tle near a land­ing in San Francisco and, as they say, the rest is his­tory.

Debbi Cran­ford is hop­ing to com­plete a se­quel to “The Lit­tlest Christ­mas Ket­tle” for Christ­mas, 2015.

“The Lit­tlest Christ­mas Ket­tle” is pub­lished by Pen­ny­well Books, an im­print of Flanker Press, St. John’s.

Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

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