Benedis-Grab, Daphne. The Angel Tree
September 30th 2014
by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Pine River is a town with lots of troubles, but the one saving grace is that every year around Christmas time, an anonymous benefactor puts up a lovely tree in the town square. People put pieces of paper with their wishes on it, and the people in the town who are able to fulfill them do. Four children in town are especially interested in this. Lucy, who was adopted from China and who has an assistance dog named Valentine because of her blindness, wants medical help for Valentine, who has cancer. Max's family's house burned down, and they are in a cramped apartment. Max is a troublemaker at school. Joe's mother is in the armed forces, and he is sleeping on the floor at his uncle's apartment, and is also having trouble making friends. Cami, who loves to play the violin, lives with her grandmother, who favors Cami's cousin, who is interested in more academic matters. The four all are intrigued by the tree (and are all recipients of help) and are bound and determined to figure our who is behind the tradition. They investigate several people in town, and eventually decide they know who is behind organizing the townspeople to help each other out.
Strengths: Lucy makes this a good candidate for #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and the theme of children in need is indicative of the continued poor economy. I can see this being popular with teachers who still feel a need to read Christmas books to students, since there would be a lot of community service tie-ins. Well-written, with nicely developed characters and an overall pleasant message.
Weaknesses: I did not care for this personally. It was depressing and required a lot of suspension of disbelief, and for me, finding the benefactor took away all the magic, even though it motivated the students to be more giving. I also am not a big fan of Christmas, and think that it is not a topic that needs to come up in books as much as it does.