This quick tale of generosity is as warm and simple as a Christmas postcard.
As the calendar counts down to Christmas in the idyllic little town of Pine River, four children hang their wishes on the Angel Tree, a tradition in which an anonymous benefactor and the close-knit residents pool their resources to help one another. The kids are sugar-cookie cutouts: Lucy, a timid blind girl whose family can’t afford her guide dog’s cancer treatment; class clown Max, who lost his house in a fire; Joe, “the most hated kid in Pine River,” whose only parent—a Marine—can’t be home for Christmas; and Cami, a violinist who can’t seem to make her grandmother proud. When the kids’ wishes are granted, Cami decides that they should work together to find “GB”—the “Great Benefactor” who started the tradition—to say thanks. Questioning kindly adults, the kids learn confidence and tolerance as they discover the story behind the tree. Mentions of cellphones and Harry Potter DVDs feel almost anachronistic against Pine River’s folksy charm. The kids seem younger than they are, and their dialogue often sounds unrealistic, but their innocence might appeal to readers who want a winter break from typical middle school drama.
A light holiday read with little mystery or development but a lot of happy endings. (Fiction. 8-11)