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Summary: Christmas is coming and Callahan wants help getting into the Christmas spirit. Thanksgiving was still a bit away, so why the interest in Christmas? When his mom probed a little more, she learned why Callahan wanted to listen to that Christmas CD so much: he didn't feel special. Fromm his point of view, all of his friends had special talents, he didn't have any. And at Christmas, that didn't matter ... people just liked being together not being "something." Could Mom seizes on a school project as a way to help Callahan. Will it work? This chapter-book story builds on the themes of finding your passion and believing in yourself.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 10; read yourself: 9 to 13
Interest Level: 9 to 13
Reading Level: 4
Young Reader Reaction: Pending review.
Adult Reader Reaction: This fast read is a story with lots of potential. Kids will relate to Callahan's feelings, and setting it in the context of Christmas may help broaden their perspective. I also liked how Callahan worked through his feelings ... the survey was a brilliant plot element. There are spots, however, that seem rushed, characters and plot lines that aren't fully developed (like Callahan missing his dad), and a Bible verse that drops in from nowhere. It would have been nice to see his report or at least have parts of his draft built into the text so teachers could use it as writing prompts.
Pros: Preteens will relate to Callahan's feelings of isolation and loss. Remedial readers will find the story relevant to them, yet accessible to read, too.
Cons: The footnotes leading to the dictionary seem demeaning to the audience that would read this book. There are unanswered questions and plot elements that show up late in the story. This story has potential and would really grab kids if it was more fully developed. Girls will see this as Callahan's story, yet Callie is the character they would relate to.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. Kids will breeze through this story trying to discover how it works out at the end.
Educational Themes: There are a number of themes that can be built on: parental loss, self esteem, problem solving, family dynamics, and discovering your place in the world. The author centers the story around Christmas, but children of all faiths could relate to Callahan.
Notes: The author donated a copy of this book to the Reading Tub. This is an unsolicited donation. Awards: Pinnacle Award for Spring 2010, Children's Category
Literary Categories: Fiction - family, conduct of life, holiday
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2009
Other Reviews: No Critics Reviews or reader feedback found at the time of this review.