Friday, December 05, 2008

The Paper Bag Christmas

Every Christmas season there are several wonderful, inspiring novels published. I read one each year to get in the spirit, in addition to returning to old favorites. My new book this year is The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne. The first thing that caught my eye after seeing it was a Christmas-themed book, was the author's last name. According to Milne's web site, his mother has done research that links them with the author of the Winnie the Pooh stories. That's a fun bit of information!
The Paper Bag Christmas is the story of Mo (Molar) and Aaron Alan, 9 and 11 year old brothers, and their experience volunteering on a pediatric oncology ward in the weeks before Christmas. The tale is told by Mo as an adult:
I'm Molar Alan, and this is my story. It is as real to me as the Santa of my youth, and I share it with an enduring hope that yo will carry its message beyond the realm of reindeer, elves, or toys and embed it deep in your heart where the distractions and disappointments of life can't enter, where the worldly can look but not touch, and where the rich in spirit can come and go at will. As with many Christmas stories, mine began on Santa's lap. But this was no ordinary Santa, and he had anything but an ordinary lap.
I'm sure hearing the words Christmas story and cancer makes you think this book is a real tear-jerker, but it definitely is not! It is funny, inspiring, and a little unpredictable. The characters are interesting and each has a special role: Aaron, the protective older brother, All-American boy; Mo, beginning to question the way the world works; Madhu, the Hindu, who wants to learn all he can about the wonderful holiday everyone is celebrating; Katrina, surviving against the odds, and Dr. Ringle, is he really Santa?
At 150 pages, this book would be great for a family read-aloud in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I gave the book to my 10-year-old niece who read it in two days and really enjoyed it. She found many parts funny, and noticed details that I had overlooked. Our family has had many experiences with cancer, so that aspect of the book didn't stand out to her, as it might with other kids her age. Her favorite parts were at the beginning when Mo and Aaron sit on Santa's lap, which is where I totally laughed out loud also, and the pageant at the end. The epilogue made her ask questions and wonder what would happen with Mo and his own children, a great endorsement for any book!
Many children would relate to Mo and Aaron getting a little old for certain parts of the Christmas experience. The story of how Molar was named is cute, and the after-hours hi-jinks in the pediatric ward are very adventurous and funny. Like many Christmas stories it ends with a pageant that I could definitely envision from Mr. Milne's vivid writing, as well as my own experiences with children and performing! This nostalgic, cozy book is sure to become a seasonal classic.
I enjoyed this book so much, I'd like to pass the feeling on to a lucky reader of this blog! If you'd like to win, please leave a story in the comments about a way you try to bring the real meaning of Christmas to your family: Toys for Tots, donating time, adopting a family, anything that you do specifically for this time of year. Deadline to enter will be Monday, December 8, midnight Eastern time. I will announce the winner on Tuesday, December 9.


The Muse said...

We are always searching and giving all through out the year not just Christmas time. We brought up our children to see need and fulfill need. As men, they are making me very proud.

Suzann @ Lavender and Roses said...

Of course seeing anything to do with BOOKS caught my attention as I adore reading and I read a story about Christmas each season.
I cannot say that we do anything in particular, but throughout the season (and the year) we always try to make Jesus the focus. But, each year I read to the children the REAL Christmas story. I used to make a birthday cake and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, but the kids are a bit old now and don't want to do that.

Justine said...

Oh wow, this book sounds amazing!! I would love to be put into the hat to win it!

Let's see. I can't say that we do anything the same way each year, charity-wise. The kids always have food drives at school and cans seem to leave my house at an alarming rate. Mikayla's girl scouts troop has "adopted" foster children, and Mikayla and I went shopping for a 12 year old girl that wanted makeup for Christmas. Now that was fun! So, each year what we do is different, but I love to give and make someone less forunate feel happy.

Justine :o )

Ronda's Rants said...

I am buying this book for my future daughter-in-law...she will love this book...she volunteers at The Children's Cancer Center and she loves to read.
When my children were home...every year we adopted a family and shopped for them at was always through our church however one year we knew of a family personally who had difficulties.
The children wanted that family for that children were given such a gift that year by that family...we all treasure the experience of that Christmas. My children learned that you can make a difference in a person's life...if you want to!
This year...My Hubby and I have a heart for the homeless so we now help manage a soup kitchen...I get the most amazing feeling feeding people...the same feelings I had while feeding my family.
For me this is what we are called to do as people of faith.
Thanks for recommending a good book!

ladyfi said...

Thanks for the tip! Sounds like an enjoyable read.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

I have written a post that is scheduled for Monday entitled "Why I Give".
For me the whole message of the original Christmas is about love and sharing.

I picked up on the Milne name immediately too.

This looks like a great book. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

The Cookie Girl said...

Our daughter just turned 3 this year and is now at the perfect age for us to teach her the true meaning of Christmas and giving.
It has been a beautiful experience this year as her thoughts and reasoning are so innocent and pure. I just hope that she will continue in that innocence and continue to be a giving and caring heart as she grows up.

Smilingsal said...

Each year at Christmas time, we do several things through our church. In addition, for fifteen years, we have written a check to our local Crisis Pregnancy Center. It furnishes everything from maternity clothing to cribs to needy moms and helps with adoptions for those who choose that option.

Queenie Jeannie said...

Oh this sounds like a lovely book!

We ALWAYS participate in Toys for Tots! This year Bella helped pick out the toys too. We have in the past visited nursing homes Christmas week because they all enjoy The Bella and her antics. I will have to see which ones are close by here as we recently moved. Thank you for this reminder!!

squawmama said...

This was a great post... So thoughtful and thr book sounds like a really great read... Thanks for the info...


Carolyn (Harbor Hon) said...

I try to keep Christmas in my heart the whole year through and I still believe in Santa. I start from January to December scouring stores for the perfect gifts for people.

Each floor in the building at work adopts a family and aslo sets up boxes for contributions of toiletries, food and clothing for other needy families in the community. It's been very successful and we've received thank you letters from many of the recipients.

This was such a great post Elizabeth! xxoo

Trudy said...

I am on some heavy duty cancer meds to help slow down my MS right now, and it has slowed down my body:( Despite that, its all steam ahead for Christmas, where we have our family, plus anyone that they, or we know who is going to be alone for dinner on Christmas Day for dinner. We also try and make alot of our presents as we feel that the gift is the effort that is put into it (mostly love) and not the 'product' at the end.

I would really love to read this book, I don't have it and I cannot afford to get it this year, so if I win, I'll read it quick and pay it forward for someone else to enjoy!

Wooly hugs,

krissy said...

I want to read this book. Thank you!

Connie said...

Reading is a HUGE love of mine, sweetpea! My son and my daughter and I can usually be found with our noses in a book. Hubs — train magazines! But if this is gonna make me cry, I'm gonna be uuuuppppseeetttt if I have my mascara onnnNNNnnnn, chickee!!!! Oh well, what the heck....I may not even win.......
Hubs has a model RR train "ROOM" he's working on. It's the 3rd car garage out there. *Sigh*......that's why I get 2 room in the house: craft/sewing and computer/painting rooms!! Hahhhhh.....I ain't no FOOL, chick.........

Louise, Carmine Superiore said...

Thanks for the recommendation of the book - sounds great. While our children are still small, we decided it was time they learn the lesson that giving is part of recieving. My husband, a former chef, has been asked to help with our town's St Stephen's Day lunch for the aged and those living alone, and we'll all be along with him doing what we can to make it a great day.

Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

Great book review and I love the sentiment. Every year I pick several tags from the giving tree at our church and have my boys help wrap the gifts. They are still young enough that they think that Santa will bring every boy and girl whatever they want, but this is a great opportunity to let them know that Santa can only bring one present for each child because of space constraints. Once they are old enough I hope we will volunteer our time as a family somewhere.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate it!

Stephanie said...

We invite someone in our community to all holiday events/cookouts, etc. Anytime several branches of the family gather, we invite at least one person to go along with us. We try to invite people who don't get much company, are lonely or depressed. It's a blast watching their face light up when they feel included. We also take some of the leftovers to elderly people in our community who don't get out much because of health or other problems. Our kids have enjoyed this very much through the years and it is my hope that they will carry this on in their own adult lives, adding to it as they see fit.

I would love to read this book! This contest is a wonderful way to share this book! Thanks!

I'm now following your blog! Great post!

auctiongirlvintage said...

Hi Elizabeth, and happy weekend! This looks like a wonderful book, and one I'm definitely looking forward to reading.

Christmas has always been a time of giving and volunteering for my family, and still is, even though our 2 sons are now grown (and still living at home, going to college). All 4 of us sing, so Christmas Caroling and performing at senior centers, charities, corporate dinners, and the homes of shut-ins has been part of our routine for close to 30 years.

I was a cub scout leader when the boys were young, and each year our den adopted 1 or more local families and provided an entire Christmas, including a fully-decorated tree (with kid-made ornaments), food, hand-sewn stockings filled with Santa stuff, and gifts for the whole family.

When our boys left scouting, we continued to adopt a family ourselves, and gave gifts and food.

For the past few years -- since I retired early from teaching kindergarten -- we've been donating time, clothing, and toys -- lots of toys -- to the families of some of my husband's patients. My husband is a clinical pharmacist for a home infusion and pharmacy, and the majority of his patients and their families have only disability income. The pharmacy and nursing staff select up to 20 families to provide with gifts and treats, and everyone contributes items for specific individuals (based on age, clothing size, and needs). For the past 2 years, I've been selling toys on eBay during the holidays, and have been privileged to donate at least $500 worth of toys and spa gift baskets (lotions, bubble bath, etc.) to give to the families.

Thanks so much for asking, and for encouraging others to share.


ps, I'm curious ... what grade(s) did you teach before your medical leave?

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

Awesome review - This sounds like such an inspiring read!

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

I volunteer for our local food pantry and help with so many other projects in the community...m..

jeanne said...

This was a great review and the book sounds wonderful.

Our giving comes to a peak at Christmas. We support families in our community that need help. We find them through our church. This year the needy family is a member of our church. their son,11 years old is dying of cancer and their bills are extensive. The little guy needs a transplant but believe it or not because money is an issue. His chances are not good.
It breaks our hearts and it is amazing that people who have so little give so much. We are waiting for a miracle. Thank you for reading my story.

Christmas love...Jeanne

Lea said...

Greetings. The book sounds wonderful!

Each year, before my kids and I eat Christmas dinner, we head down to one of the shelters here in Vegas. This particular shelter relies soley on donations from the private sector and the business sector. They do not ask for, nor accept federal money, which means they can do more for the people and not be limited by the rules of the government.

We go there and help feed the homeless. We take 2 presents, one from each child that they had received that morning and we give one to a girl and the other to a boy. This will be our 8th year in doing so.

It is our way of paying it forward, from a time when we too needed help at one time.

Rachel Ann said...

We do the Samaritan purses (shoeboxes) that are sent from churches to children in other countries.

TuTu's Bliss said...

Thanks for the heads up..I'll check it out. hugs, Jen

Vodka Mom said...

I LOVE this. My family participates in the "adopt a family" program at our school. We provide gifts, food, etc. ANONYMOUSLY to family in our town.

Astrid said...

This sounds like an awesome book!

I volunteer at Family Connections (it's non profit organization that helps families in our area). This year we (Family Connections) did cookie in a jar gifts for high risk families.

bloggingexperiments said...

sounds like a great book.