cover image On Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve

Ann Matthews Martin, . . Scholastic, $15.99 (149pp) ISBN 978-0-439-74588-8

Martin (A Corner of the Universe ) captures the essence of holiday magic, hope and disappointment in this poignant story set in the 1950s. Third-grader Tess McAlister is determined to meet the "real" Santa Claus ("not a department store Santa in a faded suit with a limp beard"). She wants to tell him an important message about what her best friend, Sarah, needs for Christmas: for Sarah's father, who has cancer, to get well. Although Tess's older sister can think of several reasons why Santa cannot possibly exist, Tess retains her faith and on Christmas Eve indeed witnesses miraculous events shortly after midnight. Without becoming overly sentimental, the author evokes the true Christmas spirit through her endearing narrator's efforts to keep hope alive. Offering a mix of sad and joyous events, this book will touch the hearts of believers and nonbelievers alike. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)