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"Sometimes when I think about this Great Depression I think that there has never been such a collision between realness and fantasy. It is as if we are standing with our feet in the muck and grime of these hard times but our noses are pressed up against the windows of some fantastically glamorous world. These times are so strange."
Minnie Swift[2]

Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift is the twenty-fifth book in Scholastic's Dear America series. It is Kathryn Lasky's third book for the series. The book was first published in September 2001 and republished eleven years later in 2012 with new cover art. It was followed by A Time for Courage.

Minnie Swift is expecting a different kind of Christmas due to the Great Depression, though not quite expecting the arrival of a distant cousin, named Willie Faye Darling.


"In memory of my mother Hortense Falender Lasky, her sisters and brother and my father Marven Lasky"

Book description[]

"November 25, 1932
This is going to be an odd Christmas, no doubt about it. Instead of sugar plums and stockings stuffed with goodies and stacks of presents under the tree, a Time of Bounty, I am thinking of this as The Time of The Dwindling. Everything is diminishing—our money, the light of day, and even the hours that Papa works. But in my heart I know we Swifts are tough—hardened off like those seedlings. I just know that somehow, someway, this shall be Christmas.

"My name is Minnie. This is my story....
For Minnie Swift, Christmas is not going to be the time of bounty she's used to. It's 1932—the middle of the Great Depression. Jobs are scarce, as are holiday treats. Yet when their orphaned cousin comes to live with them, the Swifts are quick to make room for her. Minnie, thrilled to have someone close to her age in their home, is resolved to make Christmas memorable despite the hard times. But when Papa disappears and the family's resources continue to dwindle, a joyous holiday season becomes less and less of a possibility. Will Papa return home in time for the Swift family to have a merry Christmas after all? Through her diary entries, Minnie captures the hardships of the Great Depression, the fortitude of the American spirit, and the magic of Christmas.


Eleven-year-old Minerva "Minnie" Swift realizes that the upcoming Christmas will be an "odd" one because of the Great Depression, but feels that it will be "one to remember all the same." She has a large, joyful family, including her parents, Belle and Sam, and four siblings, Gwendolyn "Gwen", Clementine "Clem", Adelaide "Lady", and Osgood "Ozzie". Two days after Thanksgiving, the Swifts receive a telegram, announcing the arrival of a cousin, named Willie Faye Darling. The family welcomes Willie Faye, whose parents have passed away, to their home with open arms. Willie Faye, from a small town in the Texas Panhandle, is a bit of a fish-out-of-water in the busy city of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Despite being the same age as Minnie, Willie Faye is placed in the fourth grade when Minnie brings her to school with her. Minnie marvels at the things that Willie Faye is not aware of. However, Willie Faye soon proves herself to be smart in her own way and begins telling wonderous stories to the Swifts. Meanwhile, Sam starts acting strange and rarely comes down to listen to the radio with the family. Minnie notices that she hears his typewriter more often these days. On December 3, Minnie and Willie Faye go to a birthday party for Minnie's classmate, Bernadette Otis. However, it is canceled when Bernadette's father commits suicide. Willie Faye is disturbed, being reminded of her parents' deaths.

As Christmas inches closer, Minnie and Willie Faye start making gifts for the family and enlist Lady's help, due to her natural fashionableness. Sam loses his job, but does not have the heart to tell the family until December 15. Despite the bad news, Minnie and her siblings continue preparing for Christmas. Clem's new beau Marlon even helps them cut down a tree. A couple days later, Sam suddenly goes missing, leaving only a note asking the family "not to worry." They, of course, worry. When Minnie confides in Willie Faye, she tells her "You just kind of got to believe." Minnie resolves to have faith. Willie Faye later attempts to cheer up Ozzie with a story. He has taken Sam's disappearance particularly hard.

Now only a few days to Christmas, Belle sells Sam's typewriter and Ozzie his chemistry set in order to hire a private detective. His search, however, is fruitless. The family's low spirits continue, though they attempt to "soldier on." On Christmas Eve, they all sit down to eat dinner but quickly realize that they have no appetite. Clem decides that they should give the food to the homeless instead. Upon returning, they are greeted by Sam, who reveals that he went to Chicago to sell his scripts. The whole family beams from happiness and they begin exchanging their Christmas presents. The next day, Minnie reflects how she will now think of their lives as before Willie Faye and after Willie Faye.


The popularity of Ozzie, the Boy Wonder made the Swifts wealthy. By age fifteen, Minnie had learned how to fly a plane. She joined the Army Air Force, and later the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), during World War II. Minnie married Ashton Brannock, an air force captain, and had two children. He was killed during the Korean War. Minnie remarried later on. In 1993, Minnie and several other women were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Her mother, age one hundred and one, was present at the ceremony. Willie Faye graduated from John Herron Art School and became an art director at Bobbs-Merrill. She and Minnie collaborated on a series of children's books. Willie Faye married Homer Peet and had twin girls.

Gwen was promoted to editor at Bobbs-Merrill after completing college. She married Harry Knox, whom started a law firm, and had three children. Clem received her masters degree in social work and became an orphanage director. She married Marlon, who became a leading businessman in Indianapolis. After graduating from Parsons School of Design, Lady became a costume designer for Broadway and later moved to Hollywood. She never married married but had many boyfriends. Ozzie graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to work on the atom bomb. After Hiroshima, he was dedicated to disarmament. He married a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz.

Historical Note[]

Six months into Herbert Hoover's presidency came "Black Tuesday," the Wall Street crash of 1929. By 1932, many Americans had lost their jobs and the lines at soup kitchens were getting longer. Many blamed Hoover, naming the shantytowns that sprung up around the country "Hoovervilles." Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the next president in March 1933. He first implemented emergency banking measures before moving on to his New Deal. In 1936, President Roosevelt was reelected and his New Deal was gradually lifting Americans out of the Great Depression. The American industry was "called into action" for World War II, helping the country fully "break loose from the Depression's grip."

The section has a portion about Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, who dedicated herself to women in politics and social movements. Furthermore, it discusses how organized crime and entertainment "flourished" during the Great Depression. Criminals such as Al Capone, Ma Barker, and Bonnie and Clyde fascinated the public. The 1930s became known as the Golden Age of Radio due to its popular programs. The section includes fifteen photographs from the time period, a map, a recipe for molasses crinkles, and the lyrics to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?."


Main article: List of Christmas After All characters


Main article: Kathryn Lasky

Kathryn Lasky is an American children's author known for writing The Night Journey, Wolves of the Beyond, and Guardians of Ga'Hoole. She is the author of four books in Dear America, including A Journey to the New World, Dreams in the Golden Country, and A Time for Courage. Lasky also contributed five books in The Royal Diaries, one in My Name Is America, and three in My America. Lasky described Christmas After All as her favorite book that for Dear America at the time as well as "the most personal." The Swift family was based on the family of Lasky's mother, and the Swift girls were an amalgamation of her mother and four aunts. Many of the events and details in the book were inspired by Lasky's childhood.



  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People (2002)[5]
  • Young Hoosier Book Award (2004-05) - nominee[6]


  • The portrait on the cover of the first edition is a detail from a photograph of Ann Hutchinson Peckstein. The background is a detail of a 1910 photograph of the Second Presbyterian Church on Vermont Street in Indianapolis, Indiana.[7][8]
  • The portrait on the cover of the second edition of Christmas After All was illustrated by Tim O'Brien.
  • Kathryn Lasky based much of Christmas After All on her mother's family, including the family home at 4605 North Meridian. A photograph of the it is included in the Historical Note.
  • The book is one of two Christmas-themed books in Dear America; the other being When Christmas Comes Again.


See also[]

Arts & Crafts

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

External links[]