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Do Not Open Until Christmas

by Jean Little

Beloved author Jean Little is an expert at creating stories about the inner lives of children, a talent that is on full display in each of these 12 Christmas-themed tales.

indexA pair of twins rebel against being dragged around on Christmas Day, thanks to their parents’ divorce; a boy struggles to get his family ready for the holiday, despite his mother’s absence; a girl adopted into an Ontario family from a Chinese orphanage figures out how to rescue her brand-name doll from its bland factory look. In each story, the child protagonist acts to bring about a consolatory or celebratory resolution in response to a family crisis or personal wish.

As she often does in her fiction, Little once again presents a true-to-life hurlyburly of family. Kids live with their grandparents; grandparents suffer strokes; children with cerebral palsy or autism are cared for with understanding; foster children and orphans are adopted; siblings die; mothers collapse into helplessness; a girl in a wheelchair goes to her first dance. From the affluent to the less fortunate, these children act out of courage – whether physical or psychological.

The stories are quick and accessible, each with a heart-strings-tugging conclusion. The miraculous coincidences and orphan characters at times touch on Victorian sentimentality, but Little’s expression of children’s realistic passions and troubles places her collection firmly in the contemporary world. In her hands, Christmas is a place – one of angels, carols, unexpected gifts, and the promise of comfort, however it might manifest.

Published with two different dust jackets, the book’s glossy, beribboned design featuring holiday red and green and soft, cheerful cover images give an accurate impression of what lies within