A white boy named Cody helps his military-veteran grandfather cope with memories of a long-ago Christmas in Vietnam as they start a new holiday tradition.
Cody’s parents are hosting a big Christmas Eve party, but Cody’s grandpa stays upstairs in his room alone. As midnight approaches, Cody seeks Grandpa out and urges him to join the party. The older man is sitting with a framed photograph on his lap, and he explains its meaning and his sadness to his grandson. The grandfather served in Vietnam, and one Christmas Eve, he and his fellows sang “Silent Night” together under an unusually bright star, vowing to continue the tradition each year to remember. Cody gets the whole party outside to sing “Silent Night” with Grandpa, starting a new, happy tradition for their family. The long-for-the-format story is sentimental but not saccharine, and the wartime flashback is handled sensitively. The illustrations have a dark, moody aura commensurate with Grandpa’s melancholy mood and the theme. The adult characters are all white except for one party guest with dark skin and hair. The depictions of protagonist Charlie are a serious drawback, as his apparent age and height are inconsistent. Sometimes he looks like a child of 6 or so, as on the cover, where he is depicted sitting on Grandpa’s knee; at other times, he looks 10 or 12 or even like a teenager.
A thoughtful story marred by inconsistent illustrations. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)