4.4 30
by Audrey Couloumbis

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A heartwarming holiday story from Audrey Couloumbis, the Newbery Honor–winning author of Getting Near to Baby. With beautiful writing and an endearing young narrator so honest and full of hope that you can't help but fall in love with him, Audrey Couloumbis tells a story, of a young boy and the grandfather that he’s just getting to know, that…  See more details below


A heartwarming holiday story from Audrey Couloumbis, the Newbery Honor–winning author of Getting Near to Baby. With beautiful writing and an endearing young narrator so honest and full of hope that you can't help but fall in love with him, Audrey Couloumbis tells a story, of a young boy and the grandfather that he’s just getting to know, that will make readers laugh and cry and, most of all, appreciate the gift of family.

It's a few days before Christmas when ten-year-old Jake's mom breaks her leg, ending up in the hospital. For as long as Jake can remember, it's been just him and his mom. So with no one else to look after him, the hospital contacts the gruff granddad that Jake only knows through awkward twice-a-year phone calls. When Granddad shows up, he's nothing like Jake expected. And he brings a dog with him—a nightmare dog, Jake thinks at first. But as Jake gets to know his grandfather and a makeshift family of friends and neighbors comes together around him and his mom, he realizes that this might not be such a bad Christmas after all.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a slice-of-life novel filled with warmth and quiet humor, Couloumbis (War Games) shows how 10-year-old Jake weathers unexpected difficulties during the holidays. A few days before Christmas, Jake is dreaming of getting his first bike when his widowed mother has an accident. She falls on the ice and has to be hospitalized for several days with a broken leg. Jake is worried about his mother, but even after he is convinced she will fully recover, there remains the problem of finding a caretaker for Jake during the interim. Having his grandfather come from North Carolina seems to be the only solution, but Granddad is practically a stranger, and the dog he brings with him isn’t “the friendly kind.” Jake’s gradual acceptance of his grandfather’s idiosyncrasies is touchingly portrayed, especially when it becomes apparent that some of Jake’s fondest memories of his father are really tied to his grandfather. With a comforting resolution that occurs just in time for Christmas, this book confirms that family boundaries are expandable and family love can overcome obstacles. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
A fall in a parking lot sends Jake's widowed mother to the hospital with a broken leg just before the Christmas holidays. There is no one else to care for Jake except his paternal grandfather who he knows only through twice-a-year phone calls. Granddad arrives all ex-military spit-and-polish with a gruff demeanor and a "nightmare dog" named Max. It takes the efforts of cheerful neighbor Mrs. Buttermark to help smooth over the awkwardness the two are feeling. Gradually, the pair warm up to each other and it is revealed that Granddad is as unsure of this relationship as Jake but, like the boy, wants it to work. Spending time with his Granddad, Jake discovers he is very much like his dad. He remembers knowing his grandfather in younger days, and even when he and Max were "puppies" together. That Jake learns to overcome his fear of the deep end of the pool and his aversion to the rambunctious dog are perfect, non-didactic life lessons for readers. As Christmas Day approaches, the new family unit is joined by Aunt Ginny and mom's friend Suzie. They all come together to make a special holiday not only for Jake's mom but for each of them as well. This warm, spare first-person narrative moves briskly, and readers will be charmed by Jake's poignant inner thoughts. Jake and Granddad's acceptance of one another is comforting and the resolution is credible. This true-to-life story celebrates acceptance of different kinds of family units and proves that a small family like Jake's can be at once tender and powerful. This is a perfect gem for a family read-aloud, not just at Christmas but any time. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—When 10-year-old Jake's mom slips on ice and breaks her leg a few days before Christmas, her hospital stay necessitates a holiday visit from the boy's paternal grandfather. Jake hasn't seen him and has barely spoken to him since Jake's dad died years earlier, and at first he is wary of Granddad and his unlikable little dog. The story of how they all come to appreciate one another is a simple one, relying on interesting characters and a young narrator who, perhaps because he has been raised among strong women, is punctilious about reporting his feelings and reactions to events, even when he doesn't really understand them. No high drama or overwrought emotions here, just some folks—and a dog—coming together as a family. Jake tells his story in a straightforward and often funny way that will resonate with young readers well beyond the holiday season.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Ten-year-old Jake's holiday season gets off to an inauspicious start when his widowed mom slips on the ice in a mall parking lot before Christmas and has to be hospitalized. Shortly thereafter the paternal grandfather he hardly knows and little remembers comes to the rescue from out of town and into Jake's life. Potentially making matters worse is his grandfather's boon companion, the "nightmare dog" Max. Jake—and readers—need not fear, though. A warm, caring gem of an older next-door neighbor who has always been there for the family proves more nurturing than ever, and assorted family members and friends also leap into the fray to help with Jake's care. Gradually the gruff exterior of ex-Marine Granddad melts away, revealing the loving softie he's always been, and boy and grandfather—and dog—come to understand each other and bond. This is a sweet story, with the sort of kind, supportive people young readers should know in life as in literature. Narrator Jake's a good kid, though at times his self-awareness seems beyond his years. Pleasant and satisfying. (Fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Audrey Couloumbis's first book for children, Getting Near to Baby, won the Newbery Honor in 2000. Audrey is also the author of several other highly acclaimed books for young readers, including The Misadventures of Maude March (which was named a Book Sense 76 Pick, a New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing Selection, and a National Parenting Publications Gold Award Winner), Love Me Tender (a Book Sense Summer 2008 Pick) and War Games, which she coauthored with her husband, Akila Couloumbis (a Junior Library Guild Selection). Audrey lives in upstate New York and Florida with her dog, Phoebe, and Phoebe's two pet parakeets, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

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