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THE LUMP OF COAL

Author: Lemony Snicket

Illustrator: Brett Helquist

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Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: hard cover

Summary: In the spirit of the season, we have a miracle: a lump of coal who can talk, think, and has goals for his life. He would love to be the black lines on a work of art ... or even barbecue meat. As he set out to reach his goals, the lump of coal learns that people don't always see miracles the way you do. They aren't interested in your miracle. Then he meets a sidewalk Santa. The guy in the red suit has to have the Christmas spirit, right? This is an illustrated story with a Lemony Snicket twist for the holidays.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 8; read yourself: 10 and Up

Interest Level: 5 to 12

Reading Level: 5.7

Age of Child: Read with a 7-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter focused on the illustrations and the expressions on the illustrated characters. She was happy that the lump of coal could get a job and the happy ending.

Adult Reader Reaction: This is a clever tale, and a nice twist on the usual picture book holiday fare. The story is well told (I like the definitions). The detailed illustrations are expressive, offering listeners the chance to explore while you read a lot of text.

Pros: Humor wrapped in clever writing and expressive illustrations make this a fun-to-read holiday story.

Cons: The number of asides and wordplay may be trying for some readers and young listeners. The book's small size could make for difficult reading if you have listeners who like to hold the book.

Borrow or Buy: Buy. The story has layers that will grow with your child. As listeners become independent readers, there are subtleties and messages that will mean more to them each year.

If You Liked This Book, Try: DODGER AND ME   AUNTIE CLAUS AND THE KEY TO CHRISTMAS   FREDERICK

Educational Themes: Although the author talks of miracles, the story is completely secular. There are a number of themes that are very effectively layered: making your dreams come true, handling rejection, being true to yourself, and perseverance come quickly to mind.

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, Christmas, middle grade

Date(s) Reviewed: November 2008

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