Sunday, December 30, 2018

Review - Untangling Christmas

Untangling Christmas (Dear Canada Christmas Story #1)
by Jean Little
Date: 2009
Publisher: Scholastic
Reading level: MG
Book type: short story
Pages: 28
Format: e-book
Source: library

A holiday treat for fans of the Dear Canada series, and all lovers of historical fiction!

Share in the excitement leading up to Christmas morning. During the euphoria towards the end of World War I, a different enemy stalked the land, killing by the hundreds and thousands. First Fee's twin Fanny, then her older sister Jemma, caught the dreaded Spanish Flu. Fee's family struggled to pick up the pieces, to put the War behind them, to face an even deadlier enemy. But finally, there is bright spot on the Macgregor family's horizon.

(synopsis from

I haven't actually read any of the Dear Canada books, which are middle-grade historical fiction novels featuring female heroines. This short story is apparently based on one of those books, If I Die Before I Wake, a story about the Spanish Influenza epidemic. There were one or two spots where I kind of wished I had read that book (because it might have explained why elder sister Jo was spending Christmas Eve in the hospital), but for the most part, this story stood fairly well on its own. Fee explained all the family connections right at the beginning, so you weren't left wondering why she called her parents "Father" and "Aunt".

The story is written as a series of letters as Fee makes a little memento book for her baby brother, Ben. Starting in early December, she makes an entry each day detailing the family's preparations for Christmas (and Ben's first birthday on Boxing Day). In addition to the regular Christmas trappings, the story also features a little subplot with Fee's twin, Fan, and her attempts to fit in with some new friends (while simultaneously leaving Fee out in the cold).

The realities of post-war poverty are shown and dealt with. With so many men disabled or otherwise unable to find work, many families were struggling. The Macgregors seemed to be doing okay, so they decided to play Santa for a neighbouring family in need. It was sweet to see the way all the children got into the spirit of giving.

This story surprised me by being better than I expected. I'm more inclined to try one of the full-length Dear Canada books now. Untangling Christmas is a sweet story about family and kindness... the perfect subjects for a holiday read.

Quotable moment:

Ben, Aunt must truly like my writing. Otherwise she would not ask me to do this. This thought just lit a fat spark of joy inside me and almost banished my bad mood. I do love writing. Perhaps writing this Birthday Book for you will be fun, after all. I will begin tomorrow. Ignore this first bit. It doesn't count.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 ladybugs

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