Jewish Rachel is enchanted by the holiday glitter of Christmas lights and decorations, as well as the anticipated visits from Santa Claus, but her family will have none of it.
Determined to take part, she writes a letter to Santa asking him to come down her chimney because she’s been “really good all year” and deems Santa “a fair person [who] will not mind that [she] is Jewish.” On Christmas Eve, Rachel secretly decorates her living room, leaves leftover latkes with chocolate chips hastily added, and an “I love you, Santa” note. She is angrily disappointed the next morning when there are no presents. In the Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day, Rachel sees classmates who are Chinese and Indian and learns they also do not celebrate Christmas, which helps to soothe the sting. The authors’ attempt to address a child’s disgruntled frustration at not participating in what seems to her to be the greatest party of the year is poorly executed, however well-intended. Even as they do an adequate job of mentioning all the jovial celebrations Jewish families enjoy throughout the calendar year (“Being Jewish was fun most of the time”), they undercut Rachel’s eye-opening multicultural revelation with an unnecessary last scene: a parade of joyful children holding gifts passes Rachel, who thinks “she could still feel a tiny bit bad” about eschewing Christmas.
The lovely ink-and-watercolor paintings cannot save this unfortunate effort with its missed opportunity for a wholly positive outcome. (Picture book. 5-8)