Veteran British children’s author Rosen gives a new twist to an old tale.
Eleven-year-old Harry Gruber has been cast as Scrooge in his school’s production of A Christmas Carol. The script of the play, based on Dickens’ classic, is interspersed with Harry’s thoughts and observations while he is performing the role. Harry’s parents and sister are in the audience, and all is going well until his workaholic dad decides that he cannot ignore a business call and abruptly walks out of the play. Ray Gruber’s dash to his office and his obsession with his business, to the exclusion of his family’s wants and needs, are skillfully mirrored with scenes in the play. In being a negligent parent, Gruber is Scrooge-like, in actions as well as behavior. A conversation with a business colleague starts to make him aware that his behavior is undesirable, and his recollections of his deprived childhood and his resentment of it make him realize the error of his ways. Scrooge’s revelations are paralleled by the growth of Ray’s personal awareness. To his family’s delight, he returns at the end of the play and turns from “the ogre of the family” to a good dad who applauds Harry’s performance. Harry and his family are white; both Harry’s classmates and Gruber’s business colleagues reflect a multicultural world.
An accessible and funny morality tale that’s useful reading for work-obsessed parents as well as their children. (Fiction. 8-12)