It's Christmastime. In an Appalachian hollow, Littlejim's (Littlejim, 1990, etc.) family works hard to get by. That doesn't mean that 11-year-old Littlejim hasn't hopes and longings -- he'd like to go to the church Christmas tree celebration, he'd like to be considered a man by his father, he'd like to use his father's tools -- but his old man is a hard-hearted brute who squashes Littlejim's dreams (""No time for funning and frolicking. No time for celebrating""). By dint of hard work, Littlejim manages to turn things around: The family gets to attend the tree celebration, his father grudgingly begins to respect Littlejim's young manhood, Littlejim even finds a way to give his sister a longed-for doll. Sweetness and melancholy vie for space without a clear victor; sadness seems to edge every act and circumstance. Adding a brooding quality are Allen's somber pastels. Not a book to brace and inspire: The message is all but lost in the story's depressing tone. Life is tough, and even good deeds demand a sacrifice.