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review 2018-01-14 19:38
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson,Judith Gwyn Brown

I know for a fact I read this book in elementary school, but I didn't remember anything about it. It turns out The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is about how the Herdmans, a gang of ill-bred ruffian poor children, hijack the Christmas play at Church because they thought there would be food, and they end up teaching everyone in town the lesson that.....they have feelings? I think that's it. It was marvelous.

The narrative, from the perspective of the daughter of the woman who ends up having to direct the pageant, is deadpan and with the humor mostly being carried by the dialogue between her parents and a lengthy segment where the hard-bitten urchins are disgusted by the treatment Mary and Joseph receive in Bethlehem and the poor quality of gifts offered by the wise men.

The humor is great, but there is a core of genuine sympathy in the book. Robinson cleverly cuts through all of the 'expected' traditions and finds a way to express the, yes I'm going to say it, the true meaning of Christmas. There isn't much resolution, but it does raise many questions, which can be a good thing when one enters into the dicey territory of Christmas fodder. This is a quick read for Christmas day and can be supplemented by the 1983 television special.

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review 2018-01-14 03:39
Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones
The Islands of Chaldea - Diana Wynne Jones,Ursula Jones

Aileen is a young girl and comes from a magical bloodline. It is her destiny to follow her aunt and late mother as a Wise Woman of the Islands of Chaldea. There are four islands to the world, three of them cut off from the largest because of a spell cast a little over a decade before. The feel is generally Celt-ish.

There are shortages of certain goods and some political turmoil because of the division of the islands, but Aileen's biggest worry is that her magic has not revealed itself yet. She is apprenticed to her aunt but she worries she may never be a capable leader.  The worries are pushed aside when she finds herself, her aunt, a handsome prince, and an orphan are sent out on a quest to end the division of the islands.

Diana Wynne Jones was a fantastic author and Islands of Chaldea has many elements of her successful stories. We'll never know what the final novel would have looked like, but this was a fun diversion. I'm glad to have read it, but it doesn't stand out of the pack of her other, finer, work.

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review 2018-01-02 04:10
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Wishtree - Katherine Applegate

Wishtree is the story of Red, an Oak tree who has served as the a Wishtree for her neighborhood for many years. A wishtree is a tradition where people may write a wish on a cloth once a year and hang it on the branches of a tree in the hopes that it will come true.

Red has never actively participated in the granting of a wish before, but she is touched when a young girl, recently moved into the neighborhood, wishes for friendship. Red witnesses how the young girl faces prejudice and indifference on the street and, when threatened with being taken down as a nuisance, Red decides to take action while she can.

This story could easily have been saccharine drivel, but Applegate's writing delivers the sentiment without making it too cloying. At its heart Wishtree is a novel about compassion and acting on our better instincts and refusing to let the bad behavior of some dictate the future for everyone.

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review 2018-01-02 02:18
Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Heavenly Nostrils #1 by Dana Simpson
Phoebe and Her Unicorn - Dana Simpson

When I was growing up there was no comic strip I loved more than Calvin & Hobbes. On a basic level it spoke to me as a young, over-imaginative kid who dragged his stuffed bear around with him for perhaps too long. I loved the sight gags, the dream sequences, the perplexed adults, the other skeptical children. Long after it was cancelled I still returned, time after time, to my old collections and picked up more until I had the whole series.

With Phoebe and Her Unicorn I finally see a successor. Phoebe is out entertaining herself in the woods when she accidentally skips a stone over the water into a unicorn's head. The unicorn is snapped out of a trance - she'd been mesmerized by her own reflection - and grants Phoebe a wish. She wishes for the unicorn, one Heavenly Nostrils, to be her best friend.

What follows are very sweet, but also sly, strips about modern pre-adolescence, school, parents, holidays and weird food. Its perfect. I would be offering it to every kid that comes into the shop if it weren't for the instant rejection of a pink cover with lady names on. Oh well, little girls love it.

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review 2018-01-01 23:45
Mennyms Alone, Mennyms #4 by Sylvia Waugh
Mennyms Alone - Sylvia Waugh

After the shocking end to the previous book, the Mennyms cautiously begin to go about their lives again. That is until Sir Magnus has a premonition. The end is nigh!

Waugh, as the series goes on, continually reached for a deeper meaning in her story about a rag-doll family that could have simply skimmed on the surface of cute whimsy. Sometimes she's reaching beyond her grasp, but with the early book and with this one she's hit a mark here. Time is passing outside even if the Mennyms advance only slowly. The outside world was going to figure out the Mennyms sooner or later and there would be questions that couldn't be avoided with a low-brimmed hat or an attitude.

Whatever their personal feelings about the premonition, the dolls prepare - especially Tulip - in their own way. As the day and the hour come nearer we can only wonder along with them about what will happen.

Previous: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2172012888">Mennyms Under Siege</a>

Next: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2172016578">Mennyms Alive</a>

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