Christmas in Vermont

A VERY WHITE CHRISTMAS

A jolly portrait of the perfect New England Christmas.
In this latest offering from novelist Mooney (A Box of Chocolates, 2014, etc.), miracle upon Christmas miracle visits the small town of Woodstock, Vermont. Jack Reynolds, a native son returning home for the season, is an Iraq War veteran mourning his MIA brother and struggling with his needy, big-city girlfriend. Hope Caldwell, meanwhile, is a schoolteacher with a new job in Woodstock, where she has come to sort out the broken pieces of her past. Soon, the two team up to spread Christmas magic throughout the town, beginning by delivering a batch of misplaced Christmas cards from the year before. Serendipitous coincidences and holiday clichés abound: Every card happens to hold monumentally good news for its recipient, and between them, Jack and Hope carry out just about every good deed imaginable, from preventing a suicide to rescuing a doomed puppy. The story is so thoroughly saccharine that a happy ending seems predestined from the start, and any attempts at narrative conflict—the trouble caused by Jack’s insufferable girlfriend, for example—feel too manufactured to generate much suspense. Similarly, the writing often strays into triteness, especially in the voices of down-home characters. In one instance, Jack smiles and thinks to himself: “That’s the way it is in Vermont, neighbors helping neighbors.” The novel is staunchly nostalgic throughout, painting a simplistic picture of a storybook town where nothing ever changes and all wrongs are righted by the wonders of a traditional New England Christmas. Mooney succeeds, however, in conjuring a vivid sense of a town at its most joyful, and his captivating descriptions of Woodstock and its celebrations are a notable strength. Additionally, the realistic, nuanced depictions of veterans and their struggles provide the story with some much-needed gravity. While lacking in overall narrative depth and character development, the book remains a charming glimpse into an idyllic winter wonderland, which will likely please readers looking for a feel-good holiday escape.

Pretty as freshly fallen snow, and just as fluffy.

Pub Date: May 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494808839

Page Count: 204

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2014

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Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

HOW TO RAISE A READER

Savvy counsel and starter lists for fretting parents.

New York Times Book Review editor Paul (My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, 2017, etc.) and Russo, the children’s book editor for that publication, provide standard-issue but deftly noninvasive strategies for making books and reading integral elements in children’s lives. Some of it is easier said than done, but all is intended to promote “the natural, timeless, time-stopping joys of reading” for pleasure. Mediumwise, print reigns supreme, with mild approval for audio and video books but discouraging words about reading apps and the hazards of children becoming “slaves to the screen.” In a series of chapters keyed to stages of childhood, infancy to the teen years, the authors supplement their advice with short lists of developmentally appropriate titles—by their lights, anyway: Ellen Raskin’s Westing Game on a list for teens?—all kitted out with enticing annotations. The authors enlarge their offerings with thematic lists, from “Books That Made Us Laugh” to “Historical Fiction.” In each set, the authors go for a mix of recent and perennially popular favorites, leaving off mention of publication dates so that hoary classics like Janice May Udry’s A Tree Is Nice seem as fresh as David Wiesner’s Flotsam and Carson Ellis’ Du Iz Tak? and sidestepping controversial titles and themes in the sections for younger and middle-grade readers—with a few exceptions, such as a cautionary note that some grown-ups see “relentless overparenting” in Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series doesn’t make the cut except for a passing reference to its “troubling treatment of Indians.” The teen lists tend to be edgier, salted with the provocative likes of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, and a nod to current demands for more LGBTQ and other #ownvoices books casts at least a glance beyond the mainstream. Yaccarino leads a quartet of illustrators who supplement the occasional book cover thumbnails with vignettes and larger views of children happily absorbed in reading.

Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0530-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Despite Meyer's unusual perspective, this journal contains memorable passages of joy and sorrow for parents and children of...

NO PALTRY THING

MEMOIRS OF A GEEZER DAD

A 70-something reflects on becoming the father of his sixth child at age 59.

Meyer fathered three sons during the Vietnam War era while married to his first wife. A journalism professor at California State University-Long Beach, he entered a second marriage to a student 27 years his junior, fathering two daughters and a son. After much agonizing about balancing career and family, Meyer took early retirement from his teaching to become a parent and a home-based freelance writer. Before his retirement, the first batch of his diary-like entries became a book, 1989's My Summer With Molly: The Journal of a Second Generation Father. After retirement, he became a regular journal-writer, musing about parenting and dozens of related threads. Just as Molly dominated the first collection of entries, son Franz dominates the second collection. At turns doctrinaire, old fuddy-duddy, self-deprecating, melancholy, humorous, even hip, Meyer is a thoughtful guide through daily life. The seemingly oblique title becomes clear in the context of the W.B. Yeats' quotation from which it is derived: "An aged man is but a paltry thing / A tattered coat upon a stick unless / Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing / For every tatter in its mortal dress..." Meyer sounds ageist at times, but throughout, he is determined to fight his own aging and to serve as a good husband and father. Eschewing sentimentality much of the time, Meyer can't help occasionally lapsing into teary-eyed territory. He concludes that "geezer fatherdom" is worth the costs, that "in the end, there is only love, active and remembered, to warm the chill of a cooling universe."

Despite Meyer's unusual perspective, this journal contains memorable passages of joy and sorrow for parents and children of all ages.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-942273-05-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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