‘The Littlest Christmas Kettle’
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 email@example.com