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Dear America Wiki

"I'm looking forward to Christmas, but worried about the fact that the war isn't nearing the end. Will seemed so sure that he'd be home for Christmas. And I haven't even gone yet. They must think there is still a lot of warring to do if they still want me to train and go over there."
Simone Spencer[2]

When Christmas Comes Again: The World War I Diary of Simone Spencer is the thirtieth book in the Dear America serie. It was written by Beth Seidel Levine and published in November 2002. The book was followed by Marion Dane Bauer's Land of the Buffalo Bones in April 2003.

Seventeen-year-old Simone Spencer joins the "Hello Girls" in the United States' Signal Corps during World War I.


"For giving me the best of everything, for laughing the only way anyone should, for letting me catch some of her spirit and all of her love, this book is for my mother, Gail Seidel Levine."

Book description[]

"December 25, 1917
Christmas! Father and Maman gave me the gift of my army uniform. So I tried it on immediately and modeled for everyone. When I made my final turn, I saw Sally standing in the doorway of the parlor with tears in her eyes. The tray of brandies she was holding started to rattle. Maman hurried over to her and took the tray. Sally sat with us and the room got quiet. "First William, and now Simone," she said. The air was so heavy that I thought I might cry, too. But Maman didn't miss a step. She passed around the brandies and raised her glass. "When Christmas comes again, we shall all be together... and the world will be a safer place.


Simone Spencer is leading a charmed life in New York City, when America enters the Great War in 1917. Her older brother, William "Will", whom is married to Caroline, enlists in the army right away and ships out in June. Meanwhile, Simone wishes to make herself useful after graduating from high school. She volunteers at the YMCA, before deciding on nursing school. Her father, a physician, asks her to volunteer at his hospital first. She volunteers in a ward dedicated to wounded soldiers. There she meets a patient, later identified as Thomas Brennan. She eventually coaxes him into talking after looking after him for a month. After recovering, Thomas leaves to become an actor in Hollywood.

Shortly after Thomas leaves, Simone learns of the need for women who speak French to be trained switchboard operators for the army's Signal Corps. Her parents take the news calmly since they trust her decisions. On Christmas, Simone receives her uniform and proudly models it for her family and friends. Her mother, Brigitte, confidently says that the family shall be together "when Christmas comes again." Simone spends the next several weeks training for her job, feeling out-of-place amongst the working class girls. In March 1918, her best friend Francie Walker gifts her a Christmas angel, before she boards the ship to the Western Front. On the ship, Simone becomes friends with Alice Kealy.

After touring Paris, where Simone's mother grew up, she and Alice are stationed in Chaumont. A couple months later, Simone reunites with her brother at a dance. Will is surprised to see her, having not been informed by their parents. He introduces Simone to his friend, Samuel "Sam" Cates. They fall for each other quickly despite arguing later. Before Sam and Will head to the frontlines, Simone gives Sam her Christmas angel. She and Alice are then sent to Neufchâteau. A month later, Alice becomes sick with influenza and initially refuses treatment. Simone remains by her side and writes a letter for Alice's family before she passes away. Afterwards, Simone has no time to grieve and just continues working.

Simone is among six "Hello Girls," a nickname given to them by the soldiers, chosen to serve near the front. The war is officially over on November 11, 1918. Simone heads to Paris first to search for Sam and Will, before finding a ship to take her back to New York. There she finally finds Will, whom was sent home months earlier due to injury. He tells her that Sam has died, but she does not believe him. Simone volunteers at the hospital and starts to consider a career in physical therapy. There she finds a wounded Sam, who was ashamed of losing his leg. On Christmas, Simone's father arranges for Sam to spend a few hours with them at their home. He returns a part of the angel, which she then places on the tree.


On May 25, 1920, Simone and Sam married in Central Park. He went to work for Will, whom took over his grandfather's real estate investment business. Sam and Simone later moved to Boston for him to attend Harvard Law School. Simone soon after went to visit Alice's family, whom shared photographs and stories of Alice with her for an entire day. Following the stock market crash in 1929, Simone and Sam moved back to her parents' home in New York City. Sam began work as an advocate for immigrants, while Simone worked as a physical therapist at her father's former hospital. Likewise, Will, whom had lost a lot of money in the crash, moved back home with Caroline.

As the Spencers' home filled up with children, Brigitte and her husband decided to move to Paris, where they lived out the rest of their lives. After the economy recovered, Will and Caroline moved to the suburbs with their children. Simone and Sam remained with in the home with their three children. The couple moved to Paris once their children were grown. They were buried next to Simone's parents and grandparents. Francie set out for California to become an actress. While on set, she met Thomas whom was starring in the film. They would eventually marry.

Historical Note[]

The United States of America entered World War I four years after it began. The decision was prompted by the interception of a German telegram to Mexico, asking the country to align itself against the United States. English women were being utilized in the war through organizations such as the Queen Mary's Women's Auxiliary Army Corps and the Volunteer Aid Detachment. The United States military was reluctant to utilize women in the same way, leading many to contribute through volunteer organizations such as the Red Cross. In late 1917, General John J. Pershing formed the Signal Corps, called the "Hello Girls" by soldiers, to train French-speaking women as switchboard operators.

The Hello Girls were sworn in, which mislead them into thinking that they were officers of the United States Army. They were also subject to military laws and disciplinary action. Merle Egan Anderson began a fight for recognition, which would go on for sixty years. In 1979, the eighteen remaining women received medals and benefits after lawyer Mark Hough took their case to court. The section also touches upon the burgeoning need for physical and occupational therapy during and post-World War I. Twenty photographs, two maps, and the lyrics to "Over There" are included at the end of the section.


Main article: List of When Christmas Comes Again characters
  • Simone Spencer is the seventeen-year-old protagonist. She leaves her privileged life in New York City to become a "Hello Girl" on the Western Front.
  • William "Will" Spencer, Simone's married older brother. He volunteers for the army as soon as America joins the war. He is stationed in France where he befriends Sam Cates.
  • Alice Kealy is Simone's new friend and fellow "Hello Girl" whom was from Boston. They meet on the way over to Europe and quickly become inseparable.


Main article: Beth Seidel Levine

Beth Seidel Levine is the author of When Christmas Comes Again, her first and only novel. Prior to writing the book for Dear America, Levine was an editor for the series. Her love of New York City was an inspiration for the book. She chose to set it during 1917 since it was a time "the city was in transition", and "World War I provided a dramatic background."


"Many, many thanks to Charles Levine, who is both a loving father and supportive friend; thanks to my dear brother Michael Levine, whom I adore and admire more than he will ever know; to my Reba, whose encouragement and unconditional love are unmatched; to my Grandmom Mimi, whose presence in my life is a blessing; to my Aunt Kris, Uncle Scott, Eliot, and Taylor, whose love and support define family; to the Ain Family for opening their home and their hearts to me. And most of all, my thanks go to Jonathan Ain, my love and my very best friend. I could not have done this without you. And to all my good friends—you all keep me going.
Thanks also to Amy Griffin, who handled the role of editor/cheerleader with as much support and guidance as she does the role of surrogate sister. And to Jean Feiwel for the opportunity of a lifetime (over and over again).
Thank you to Manuela Soares, Elizabeth Parisi, Kerrie Baldwin, Sarita Kusuma, Lisa Sandell, Diane Nesin, Dwayne Howard, and Amla Sangvhi. Together, you made this book come together.


  • The portrait on the cover is a detail of J.B. Whitcomb's c. 1907-1910 photograph Portrait. It was taken from John Wood's 1993 book The Art of the Autochrome. The background is a photograph of Armistice Day celebrations licensed from Getty Images.[3]
  • The book is second of two Christmas-themed books in Dear America, which includes Christmas After All.
  • When Christmas Comes Again features the oldest heroine in Dear America with Simone starting the book at the age of seventeen.


  2. When Christmas Comes Again, Beth Seidel Levine, page 52
  3. When Christmas Comes Again, Beth Seidel Levine, page 172

See also[]

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[]