I found the following a couple of years ago when I was looking for a review of the then-new live action movie of Charlotte’s Web.
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While at the website, I happened to notice on the sidebar a link to a special Holiday Posting of Lois Lenski’s memories, entitled “Christmas at Huckleberry Mountain Library“, published by The Horn Book in 1946, the year Miss Lenski won the Newbery for Strawberry Girl:
Huckleberry mountain library — the only rural library in Henderson County, North Carolina — is open for two hours every other Sunday afternoon to the mountain children, and was to be open on December 23. Packages of books from three of my publishers arrived on the 22nd, just in time for library day.The library is a small log building, with a rock chimney at one end, sitting at the foot of the mountain, shaded by long-leafed pines. There had been three deep snows — more than this locality experiences in an entire winter — so the low-hung branches of the pine trees and the roof were white and glowing in the bright winter sun.
The children always come early, the young librarian, an educated mountain girl, said. The hours are from two to four, but often they are there by one-thirty. She has to open the door as soon as she gets there and keep it open, even at the risk of being very cold because the open door is a sign of welcome. If the children see the door closed, they may turn around and go home!
Through the weekdays, the building is unheated. So we went over early, to put up some greens and a little Christmas tree, and to get a fire started. Some young pine trees had been cleared out of the woods near by, and these Stephen chopped up. We had brought some dry wood, kindling and newspapers with us. The fireplace was filled with snow, and the chimney was very cold, so in spite of all our efforts, we never did get what you would call “a roaring fire” or any noticeable amount of heat in the room. …
The children looked so pretty as they came down the road across the snow. They were all dressed in their best — their coats and caps and mittens of bright colors — and had their hair neatly combed. They did not look ragged or tousled as they usually do at home. I was struck by the beauty and sweetness of their faces. Their natural shyness and quietness make their sweetness all the more appealing. There is a large proportion of redheads among them, evidence of a strong Scotch strain. They are apt to be small for their age. A boy, who looked to me to be about six, told me he was ten and in the fifth grade. Their clothes were pretty but not warm. The girls had thin cotton dresses on under their light summer-weight coats. Some (especially a group who had come all the way down the mountain) came in shaking and shivering, and their bare legs were blue with the cold.
Read the rest of Lois Lenski’s holiday account here. A warm holiday thank you to the folks at The Horn Book for rekindling and sharing the memories.