Comforting family traditions and the exciting, true magic of Christmas crackles through Martin's brief, heartfelt novel set in the late 1950s. Fraser's youthful voice is key in portraying the hope, determination and confident belief in all things wonderful demonstrated by third-grade protagonist Tess. Listeners will share Tess's heart-pounding anticipation as she waits for the real Santa, who she is sure can deliver a holiday miracle for her best friend, Sarah, whose father is stricken with cancer. Sounding sweet but never saccharine, Fraser captures both the spunkiness and sorrow that turn this into both a realistic-sounding tale, and one that serves as an explanation for why so many people of all ages perpetually embrace holiday magic. Ages 9-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Karen Werner
Tess, an eight year old, is planning on staying awake on Christmas Eve to see Santa Claus, the real Santa Claus. She has experienced a sign! As she and her dog Sadie walk to the home of her best friend Sarah Benjamin it begins to snow. As they cross the field, Tess has a vision and hears two words, "Santa Claus," but she does not see anyone. She knows this is a sign that this Christmas Eve will be the year she is going to meet Santa. On Christmas Eve, when her family has gone to sleep, Tess and Sadie go downstairs to wait for Santa. She has a gift for Santa, a snow globe, and she settles herself in an armchair near the Christmas tree facing the fireplace. As the clock chimes twelve, she sees an angel. With a gust of wind, Santa comes down the chimney. As Tess and Santa talk, she shares with him that Sarah's dad is very ill and if possible, she would like him to get better. Before Santa leaves he tells Tess that the best gift she could give her friend would be the gift of hope. As the new year begins, Sarah misses school when her dad comes home for the last time. Mr. Benjamin dies in the spring, and Tess and her family attend the funeral. Tess and her family invite Sarah and her mom to vacation with them and they begin to feel hopeful. Through shared experiences and memories, the girls begin to look forward to Christmas celebrations. Tess begins to understand the magic of Christmas, that Christmas and Santa are about hope. Sarah is feeling hopeful and that is the most powerful gift.
School Library Journal
Tess, 9, is a bit old to still believe in Santa Claus, but believe she does in this novel (Scholastic, 2006) by Ann M. Martin. She also believes that midnight is a powerful time, especially on Christmas Eve. Tess hopes to take advantage of the magical hour to help her best friend's dad who is slowly dying of cancer. In this unevenly paced novel, Tess actually meets Santa who teaches her about miracles and hope in this story set in the late 1950s. While this is not one of Martin's best novels, Broadway actress Alison Fraser does a wonderful job of bringing it to life. Her appropriately girlish tone is suitably somber when necessary, and she successfully conveys the sense of wonder that Tess feels. Fraser is the highlight of the production.
B. Allison GrayCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Christmas stories tend to be sentimental, and this one is no exception. Martin trims her "I-believe-in- Santa" tale with garlands of an unselfish wish, a friend's ill father and faith in the season. Third-grader Tess is convinced that this year (1938) she will meet the real Santa and experience "the Christmas magic." Instead of leaving him cookies, she buys him a gift of a snow globe and wishes that her best-friend Sarah's father could be home from the hospital for the holiday. Nostalgic and tender, by next Christmas Tess has come to realize that some gifts are not exactly the ones you ask for. This old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell image of a family Christmas reflects the time period, but who is the audience? Will today's eight- and nine-year-olds accept Tess's belief in Santa? The title, the appealing cover of the snow globe and Martin's name will sell this sentimental sleigh ride-most likely to grandparents. (Fiction. 8-10)