In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story, by David McCullough. Shadow Mountain Books, 56 pages, illus. with DVD, $10.99.
The noted biographer of Harry Truman and John Adams created this book for the 2010 Christmas season. It comprises an essay by the author, the 1941 radio addresses by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill (then in Washington) at the lighting of the White House Christmas tree; a photo collection of Americans during World War II; and a DVD of McCullough’s presentation of the story at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s 2009 Christmas concert, including the choir’s performances of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
Critics seem undecided on whether the book is a narcisisstic exercise by someone who enjoys hearing his own voice or a nostalgia piece. Eva Mitnick in the Library Journal considered the lead essay (“Music is part of our history”) inconsequential, saying the work “isn’t particularly successful as either a Christmas book or an account of an important moment in history.” The story of Churchill’s 1941 visit, of course, is already well known from a multitude of previous books, and the Roosevelt and Churchill speeches on Christmas Eve were brief.
But most readers praise the book, especially the DVD recording and the Roosevelt and Churchill speeches: “It would take a tougher heart than mine not to shed a tear. This book is a touching and appropriate gift…especially for those who share memories of WW2 or their loved ones that have been far away from home serving their country on Christmas.” It is certainly priced much more modestly than it might have been.