Wally Lamb’s Wishin’ and Hopin’ is something that’s been on my list for months because a) I love stories told from a childhood perspective and b) I love stories set in the 50s/60s. However, I held off on reading this until the holiday season, because it is described as a Christmas story.
Wishin’ and Hopin’ tells the story of Felix Funicello, distant cousin of the famous mouseketeer Annette, who is getting through his fifth-grade year at St. Aloysius Gonzago Parochial School. After Sister Dymphna, Felix’s teacher, suffers a mental breakdown at the beginning of the year, she’s replaced by the eccentric Madame Marguerite, who emphasizes French culture over religious studies. When preparations for the annual Christmas program begin, everything that could go wrong does, resulting in the most memorable Christmas program in recent years.
Wishin’ and Hopin’ is similar to Jean Shepard’s infamous A Christmas Story in tone—a lighthearted story of nostalgia that contains situations and incidents that are so unique to childhood in a particular time and place. The characters don’t have oceans of depth, but are developed enough to interact (and often clash). Anyone who grew up in this time period is sure to enjoy this walk down memory lane. The story is amusing more than anything else, which may just be perfect for a quick holiday read.
The Flavia de Luce series is one I have been enjoying for the past couple years, because Flavia is a really fun, unique character to read. She’s intelligent, precocious, and entirely mischievous. The latest in Alan Bradley’s series, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, is now my favorite since I met Flavia in the first in the series, and with a holiday theme, it’s perfect to read right now!
Christmas isn’t the only thing coming to Buckshaw; the Colonel is hard up for cash and has agreed to allows Buckshaw to serve as the backdrop for a sure-to-be mega hit film starring the famous Phyllis Wyvern. The film crew has rolled in and made themselves at home, while the film’s star has been busy charming the house staff, even winning over the skeptical Flavia. Of course, in a small town like Bishops Lacey, any news is big news, and the Vicar is quick to enlist the movie stars’ help in a performance to fund a new church roof. But when a snowstorm traps the entire town at Buckshaw and a body is found strangled with a length of film, chaos ensues and, naturally, Flavia is on the case.
The reason I love these books is because they’re multi-faceted and can’t easily be defined by one genre. The plotlines are all mystery, but the characters add a light-hearted, juvenile dimension. Flavia’s investigations are always fun to read, especially as we follow her deductive skills that lead to her crime-solving conclusions. KEEP WRITING, BRADLEY.