Puffin Books, 1999
It’s hard enough being a foster child bounced from home to home and school to school but when you add being overweight and having the name Welcome Comfort to the mix then that’s a surefire mix for teasing and bullying. And that was what was happening when Quinton Hamp, janitor of Union City Elementary School came across Welcome Comfort for the first time. Stepping in and offering the first hand of friendship that Welcome had had in a long time, Quinton looks out for him and through his friendship and guidance Welcome begins to blossom a little.
But all too soon the holiday season is upon them and Welcome knows no joy from it, even moreso when he finds Mr Hamp and his wife always go north for that one special day of the year.
“What’s so great about Christmas?” Welcome said.
“Why, boy, Christmas is the most wondrous time of the year!”
“It has never been wondrous for me.”
“What about family? What about presents and what about Santa?”
“I don’t have any family and Santa! He’s not even real!”
“He’s real all right,” Mr Hamp said.
“Seein’ is believin’” Welcome looked sadly at the floor.
No child, believin’ is seein’,” Mr Hamp said with a warm smile.
So Welcome practiced believing and that Christmas something magical happened… something that sustained Welcome for many years and provides an unusual twist in the end of the story that will give children hope and encourage them to dare to dream.
Welcome Comfort was another of the highly recommended Christmas books listed when I asked my US colleagues for their must-reads. Patricia Polacco is the author and illustrator of many children’s books and this is the most heart-warming story that will bring a little magic into the lives of listeners and readers. The child who is lonely will empathise with Welcome and perhaps start to build their own dream while others might think about their own fortunate circumstances and perhaps be a little more generous all year round, not just for a few weeks of the year.
A must-have in your Christmas collection.