105 Ways to Give a Book

Not On My Christmas Eve

On Christmas EveWith Christmas fast approaching and the gift-buying frenzy in full swing, I had decided not to waste my precious book recommendation space with any more reviews of books that... well, stink. And then I read Ann M. Martin’s On Christmas Eve and all bets were off, because I can see the possibility of folks buying this book as a gift knowing nothing about it.

Allow me to correct that. I will also give away pretty much everything that happens in this book. Why? Because when it comes to Santa, parents better know what they are putting in front of their kids, that’s why.

When Tess is eight, she is determined to stay up on Christmas Eve and talk to Santa. She knows that her older sister Evvie doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but Tess has something really important to ask him. Tess’s friend Sarah has a very sick father who has cancer. The family doesn’t know if he’ll be out of the hospital for Christmas, or if he’ll even recover. Tess wants to ask Santa to use his magic to help Sarah’s father get better.

Tess has some odd experiences and she takes these as a sign that she’ll see Santa. She stays up until midnight on Christmas Eve and sees all sorts of magic. The animals gather outside, there is an angel who appears, and her dog Sadie talks to her. Santa comes and gives each person a small present in their stocking or under the tree. Tess does talk to Santa and he mostly agrees with her theories of why he can’t help everybody, rather than give the explanations himself.
“Evvie says that if there really is a Santa, he should give lots and lots of gifts to poor children, but that poor children sometimes don’t get any presents at all. I said that’s because you try to do other things for their families, like find houses for them to live in, or find jobs for the grown-ups. Is that right?”

“I do my best,” replies Santa...

“So is it true? You do something for everyone, but you do different things for different people? Like for us, you just leave a couple of presents, because we already have so much. And you give magic to other people.”

“Yes, that’s so,” agrees Santa.
Even though Tess believes that Santa has said he will help Sarah’s father, early the next year the dad dies. Tess eventually comes to think that Santa can’t make people well, but that Tess herself can help Sarah. She realizes, “Sarah didn’t get the gift I asked Santa to give her last year, but she found hope — Christmas magic too, I think — and that is a powerful gift.”

I have multiple problems with this book, including the cancer Christmas story, the over-the-top magic that happens on Christmas Eve, the explanations for how Santa helps people, and the talking dog. If this all sounds delightful to you, fine. Just be sure that you’re comfortable with the elements of the story before you give the book as a gift.


Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. There was something just a bit ... off about the book. I couldn't really put my finger on it. More than anything it seemed like a mad dash for the nostalgia crowd. My Jewish co-workers read it first and were baffled by the animal talking sequences. Sadly, there wasn't much I could tell them to make sense of it.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Not going out to get this one for sure.

I'll stick with my Opus Christmas Eve tale.