In this gently fantastical YA novel, an angel visits a girl on Christmas Eve and bestows a unique gift.
Jamie Mayer is a well-meaning 8-year-old girl who desperately wants a laptop for Christmas. Instead, she’s disappointed to receive a wooden angel from her father. After Jamie says she’ll only believe in Christmas if she can witness the Nativity for herself, the angel comes to life in all his cigar-smoking glory. He introduces himself as Gabriel (Gabe to his friends) and offers to grant her wish. The story of a slightly selfish child learning a lesson on Christmas Eve is familiar, as is the character of a gruff but loving angel. Similarly, the numerous pop-culture references become a bit tiring, especially because Morgan seems intent on featuring as many dead celebrities as he can—biblical figures, former U.S. presidents and a certain legendary rock ’n’ roll singer—until a funny idea is stretched too thin to support the gentle humor. However, the story has some impressive touches, including Gabriel’s insistence that Jamie has to really want to go on the journey; her autonomy then lends the story more weight than it would have otherwise had. Also, Jamie’s interactions with shepherds and wise men are emotionally resonant, and the relationship between Jamie and her sister is believable. While terms of derision like “dorkmeister” are used too often, the underlying mix of love and irritation between the two girls feels true while adding a realistic foundation that helps ground the mild fantasy. The family structure as a whole is refreshing: Jamie’s mother is a night nurse whose work demands long hours away from home, while her father’s job (computing in a home office) places him in more of a domestic role. The father’s obsession with celebrating Christmas sets the stage for the yuletide journey, while the mother’s dedication to her work underscores the author’s overall theme of self-sacrifice, which connects the whole family to the story of Jamie’s growing maturity.
A sweet story about thinking of other’s needs before your own.