‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2016 With Caroline Leech

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!


About Caroline Leech

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who moved to Texas for an adventure ten years ago. Her debut novel for young adults, Wait For Me, will be published in the USA by Harper Teen on January 31st. Set in Scotland towards the end of World War Two, the book tells the story of a girl’s friendship with a German prisoner of war who is sent to work on her father’s farm. Harper Teen will also publish Caroline’s second YA novel in early 2018. Caroline lives in Houston TX with her husband and three teenage children.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookPinterestGoodreads

Games!

In my family, we celebrate Christmas Day, Hogmanay (that’s Scottish for New Year’s Eve), and New Year’s Day. And to me, these holidays mean food and gifts, weepy movies and long family walks. But they also mean GAMES! And not just any boring old ball games or board games, I mean PARTY GAMES!

When I was very little, my extended family used to gather for enormous parties – and I mean, enormous! My dad was No. 6 of seven children, and I was the youngest of all the grandchildren (in fact, there were great-grandchildren older than me!), so there could be almost forty adults and kids at these festive gatherings, all older than me, and all desperate to win at the annual evening of BINGO.

Since I was a pre-schooler, who could not be trusted even with a bingo card let alone those tiny plastic (and very swallowable) discs we used to cover the numbers, I was instead given the job of Chief Prize-Giver-Outer. When someone called “House!” – the British equivalent of “Bingo!” – my Aunty Nan would send me waddling off to present a packet of candy to the winner, which I solemnly did, amid much cooing – I was very cute, you know.

By the time I was ten, and nowhere near so cute, our family routine had changed, with the enormous gathering now split into two more manageable feasts. Now we went to another aunt’s house for a smaller party, but one which offered a far more challenging selection of party games. Each year Aunty Isobel and my older cousin, Sally, would come up some new ones, but for years, two games never changed.

In Find the Object, everyone was sent off to wander round my aunt’s huge house to look for normal things in abnormal places. Working from a list, you had to find things like a pencil, Christmas bauble, cotton reel, ruler etc. hiding in plain sight somewhere you wouldn’t normally expect them to be. For example, there was always a pair of scissors in the Christmas tree, a spoon in a toothbrush mug, and very often a paper clip or safety pin attached to Sally’s earring. More unexpected finds were the inside of a toilet roll perched on the chandelier, a troll doll in a coal-scuttle and a postage stamp stuck on a shaving mirror. This game was as much a game of stealth, however, as of observation since you had to write down where you saw an item without tipping anyone else off to what you just saw. Everyone was watching out for someone else suddenly writing, because it flagged that there was a target object close by. The winner was, of course, the person who found the most items – and for the record, that was never me. [Author’s note: I have been tempted to arrange this game at parties in my house in recent years, but since almost every item in my house is never where it should be, I’ve always decided against it.]

A game more suited to my talents, however, was The Chocolate Game. Once the dog was shut outside the sitting room door, the rest of us took turns rolling a dice. As soon as someone threw a six, they had to scramble into the center of the circle, quickly put on a woolen hat, gloves and scarf, and use a knife and fork to cut up and eat from a huge bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate. Sounds easy? Not when gloves would slip on the metal implements, and not when the hat was suddenly ripped from your head, the scarf tugged till you choked, and you almost lost fingers as another six was thrown and the next person tore them off you. Even if you did get some chocolate in your mouth, there were the howls of protest if you tried to eat any piece larger than one exact square. Sometimes, Lady Luck would roll three sixes in a row, so you’d barely have the hat on before the next person was grabbing it, and then the next. And sometimes Uncle Sandy would think it was very funny to keep the dice in his hand while everyone else pretended to roll it, all shouting out fake numbers, while some poor kid knelt in the middle, frantically eating their way through a pound of milk chocolate in a three-minute gorge-fest, before having to be escorted from the room because of the severe vomit-risk. (You get that kid was me, right?)

And we played the Rocket Game, Stop the Bus, Boticelli, and even the Black Bean Game (You know, the one where grown adults charge around a house shouting to their team-mates in woofs, moos, meows, and baaaaas? You don’t know that one? Shame, it’s a good one!). And no party would have been complete without an extravagant display of Charades, when every book/movie/TV had to be guessed as Wuthering Heights, and when the adults acted like children and their children didn’t get embarrassed by them (much!).

These days, I have three cute kids of my own and I live four thousand miles away from my even-more-extended family (there are more than fifty of us now, aged from 90 down to just two months old). Even so, I still insist on having party games each festive season, only now it’s me plotting and planning the games. Each holiday season, we host at least one games night of anywhere between ten and 25 friends. We still play the old ones I remember from my childhood, but I’ve found some new ones too. And there is always an array of much sought-after prizes for the winners. It’s amazing how competitive people get in order to win extravagances like a Mars Bar, a highlighter pen or a travel-sized bottle of shampoo.

These evenings are always loud and chaotic, messy and exhausting. But they are also jam-packed full of laughter and friendship, which makes me happy, because those things are what the holidays mean to me.

Title Wait For Me
Author Caroline Leech
Pages 384 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Historical Fiction, Romance
To Be Published January 31st, 2017 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany — the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

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