A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

Dec 19, 2017

At the end of November, I checked out several children's Christmas novels from the library: Aunt Sass: Christmas Stories by P.L. Travers, Winterfrost by Michelle Houts, and A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig. I read each summary to the boys, then we took a vote, and A Boy Called Christmas won. I was glad because it was one that I wanted to read last year, but by the time I heard about it, there was no hope of snagging a copy from the library.

It's a Santa origin story, and it begins with Nikolas, who was born on Christmas Day. Nikolas' mother died when he was still quite young, and he and his father have always struggled to get by on his father's meager living as a woodcutter. Nikolas' two most memorable Christmas presents were a wooden sleigh made by his dad and a doll made out of a turnip.

One day, a big man named Anders comes through and convinces Joel (Nikolas' dad) to join his group in their search of Elfhelm. The king has promised a big reward to anyone who can bring back evidence that elves exist. The reward is large enough that Joel and Nikolas won't have to worry about money again for the rest of their lives.

So Nikolas is left in the unkind hands of Aunt Carlotta, and after a short time, he can't stand it anymore, so he runs away. He nearly perishes but is saved just in time by Father Topo and Little Noosh. Elves.

He has made it just where he wanted to be, but he's not greeted with the kind of reception he was hoping for. In fact, most of the elves don't trust him at all and end up locking him in a tower. Their distrust of humans has only recently been acquired (before that, they prided themselves on being friendly and welcoming to all). Nikolas soon gathers that a group of humans visited Elfhelm just before him, and they left with something that didn't belong to them--an elf named Little Kip.

Nikolas knows immediately who must have taken him, and he is determined to get Little Kip back where he belongs. Little does he know that doing so will put him on a path that will change his life forever.

If my kids were writing this review, they would not hesitate to give this book five stars, two thumbs up, and their full stamp of approval. They loved every moment of it.

But I'm the one writing it, and overall, I was less enamored with it. I didn't hate it (it wasn't torture to get through like The Great Ghost Rescue from last year), but I was still rather glad when we came to the end of it.

The writing didn't impress me, and I felt like things in the plot weren't set up or introduced very well. It felt like I was being jolted through the story rather than getting a smooth ride.

It is entirely possible that the difference between my opinion and my kids' could be attributed to a lack of attention (me) and an eager focus (them). I don't know. I'm just giving you fair warning.

The other day I was driving and said something about it being "impossible to turn left." Maxwell called out from the back seat, "Mom, you just swore!" My mind raced back to what I had just said. "No I didn't. What are you talking about?" "You just said the word impossible!" Aaron and Bradley chimed in with gasps of disapproval.

Then Bradley quoted, "An impossibility is just a possibility you don't understand yet."

And I was impressed--that probably was the main theme of this book, but I don't think I could have remembered it if pressed.

And then they laughed about the troll's head exploding. Because that was really their favorite part.

P.S. And apparently, there's a sequel, so I guess I know what we'll be reading next year.

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