Although its intended readers will see it as historical fiction from a faraway time, The Red Velvet Box, by Christine Keleny, seems as if it came right out of my own childhood. The time and place details were perfect for the early 1950’s, and the fashion details were great. My own childhood was a decade later, but I, too, remember feeling grown up reading Seventeen magazine. In this story, Katherine embarks reluctantly on a holiday trip to visit her grandmother. It’s an annual trip with her mother, so Katherine knows exactly how bad it is going to be.
Katherine is intrigued by the red velvet box, which is very special to her grandmother. It holds old ornaments, each with their own story. I particularly loved that the ornaments weren’t valuable imported blown glass. Most are handmade from paper. This is very true to the time and very good comment on value. The box is very magical, but not in a wizard sense. The magic lies in the precious family memories that the ornaments hold.
Of course Katherine learns a lesson about the value of family that tugs at the reader. Overall, the story is short enough to share over and over again and is heartwarming enough that you want to do so.
At the end of the story, Keleny includes directions to make one of the paper ornaments in the red velvet box. I actually made these ornaments myself in Girl Scouts, and I often make them in my classroom with my students. I can hardly wait to read the story to my class before creating ornaments this year!