Saturday, October 09, 2021

The Girl Who Ruined Christmas

Callaghan, Cindy. The Girl Who Ruined Christmas
October 12th 2021 by Spark Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Brady and her parents, who live in California, visit Harper Hollows Falls, a small East Coast town with a really strong Christmas tradition. Unfortunately, they are there so that the father can buy the local Christmas tree farm and develop it. At a town ceremony to see a tree from this farm off to the White House, something which the town hopes will change its fortunes, Brady takes a selfie to post on social media, but her flash spooks the Clydesdales and precipitates a string of events that ends with the tree going up in flames. Everyone blames her for this devastating event, and she is actually arrested, charged, and must appear in court before a judge for the damage. Her parents can't believe that Brady is being held responsible for a freak accident, but the judge sentences her to a month of community service at the tree farm. The locals who work there aren't thrilled, but Brady tries her best to make amends, constructing gingerbread houses with her "host" mother, and generally trying to find a way for the tree farm to be saved. She finds some allies, learns to trust herself, and manages to save the day. 

I have to admit that I skimmed this a bit- I love Callaghan's work but wasn't sure this would be a good purchase for middle school. It's being released in paperback, so would make a great stocking stuffer, but the prebind costs a whopping $18.79 through Follett's Titlewave.

Strengths: Callaghan's Lost in... books are hugely popular in my library, and Christmas books are a big hit with many of my students, especially with my students with Somalian backgrounds. This is billed as a "novella", but at 149 pages, is just the right size for a middle school quick read. Brady is a great character who has made some mistakes but throws herself whole heartedly into saving the town and getting to know the local tweens. Ever since Cleary's The Luckiest Girl, books where kids are forced to go live with other families for whatever reason are a realistic fantasy for readers who want to get away from their parents' gaze for a while. Lots of good Christmas connections and activities. 
Weaknesses: As an adult, I had a very hard time believing that Brady was allowed to stay in Harper Hollows Falls with the Crispins, even though Callaghan does a great job of addressing remote schooling and making the Crispins seem like a perfect place to abandon one's offspring! 
What I really think: I would purchase this if it weren't so expensive. Perhaps the cost of a prebind will come down after the publication date. 

Ms. Yingling

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