The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 150 pages, 2008

Rating: 7/10

Reason for Reading: I plan to shamelessly spend the month of December surrounded by holiday special after holiday special, so I thought I better squeeze in a little reading in the same spirit.

Synopsis: The Paper Bag Christmas is the story of a different kind of Santa – one who wants to give a couple of young brothers ‘everything they never wanted.’ Volunteering at a hospital, the two brothers learn some priceless lessons about what is really important during the season of giving.

Why you should read this book: There are some quirky things in this book that will quickly make you sit up and take notice of this unusual Christmas story. For one thing, most holiday specials aren’t set around kids in the terminal wing of the hospital, and you’ve never seen a Santa like this one – either physically or with his ideas. The story is at its best when the kids are being kids, getting into trouble and making friends, regardless of who has cancer or whatever other problem arises. If you’ve been spending too much time focused on the commercial aspect of Christmas, this story will make you look more appreciatively at the friends and family you’re aiming to please this holiday season.

Why you should avoid this book: If you’re not a person who likes a sappy story, run for the hills. The sappiness imparts a bit of insincerity into the story in order to make it all come together (the nine-year-old narrator is a little too adult in his thinking), even if it’s not a typical happy ending.

Opening paragraph:

With Thanksgiving dinner less than twelve hours gone by, the house still smelled of pumpkin pie and green bean casserole. Mellow sounds of Bing Crosby drifting in from the record player in the parlor blended happily with the cheers of football fans roaring from the television in the living room. Food, Bing, and football: the Christmas season had officially begun, in all of its holiday glory.

Fabulous quotes:

We looked at each other for a moment and then peeked out of the window to make sure Mom and Dad were still keeping a watchful eye. Without a valid reason not to, we took him up on his offer, each of us leaping at the same time onto one of the giant legs that hung over the corner of his big chair. But as soon as we made contact, swoosh, a loud burst of air rushed out from beneath us as Santa’s legs went as flat as pancakes.
‘Ahhh!!’ I screamed.

Katrina cut him off mid-sentence. ‘I’ll race him!’ She was pointing in my direction.
I looked back over my shoulder on the off chance that someone had snuck up behind me. There was nobody there. ‘If the little elf wins, I’ll be in the pageant.’
Gulp.

Also recommended: Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom; Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Also by this author: The Paper Bag Christmas is Milne’s first novel.

Author’s website: kevinamilne.com

Fun tidbit: Milne’s favourite book is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, which is about Frankl’s experience trying to find a reason to keep living in a concentration camp during World War II.

Would I read more by this author? It was a decent read, but it’s doubtful I’d read anything else by this author unless I heard it was fantastic. I guess I just need a little more edge to my novels, even if it is Christmas.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008


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