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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2013
Material: hard cover
Summary: Merry Christmas. Not hardly. Sam Brattle (11) doesn't have much to celebrate. He and his dad (whose bakery is about to go under) aren't getting along. His Dad is making excuses on why his Mom doesn't want to see him, and he's tired of being the "freak" at school. Sam decides to take out his anger on the windows at school - until the police are called and the chase begins. Again. This isn't the first time Sam is running from the cops. With a little "help" from his neighbor's tree, Sam escapes the police. But he doesn't escape the consequences of destroying Mr. Wells' property, his past crimes, or facing up to who he is. Although set at Christmas, Sam's story will resonate with middle grade readers all year long! This is a High Interest / Low Readability option.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, read aloud book, independent reading, reluctant reader, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 9 and Up; read yourself: 10 to 13
Interest Level: 9 to 13
Reading Level: 4.9
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: I loved this story. As I was reading, it was playing out like a black-and-white movie (even though it had modern elements to it). It doesn't take long to realize that Sam is a good kid making some really bad choices. He is empathetic and pretty transparent. Mr. Wells (aka Nick) is the more complicated character. His motives, on the surface, seem philanthropic and grandfatherly, but his methods make him less sympathetic. I did not see the end coming - Sam figured it out before I did!
Pros: This is It’s a Wonderful Life meets Home Alone. It is charming and heartwarming; and it will make you laugh out loud a time or too, as well!
Borrow or Buy: Buy! This is a story that you can read any time of year, but It would make a very nice holiday read-aloud with mixed age audiences and older children. It is a lovely gift that even the most dormant reader will enjoy!
Educational Themes: Nickel Bay Nick has lots of themes to explore - from choices and consequences and the ends justifying the means, to relationships and acceptance. This is a book meant to be shared, and it is an exceptional selection for any type of book club or classroom read alud.