Friday, December 23, 2016

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Frances ran up and put a nickel in the monkey's cup. "I'm going to be in the Christmas Play tonight," she said.  "I get to wear wings, and I have one line to say.  Do you want to hear it?"

From her bedroom window, Frances can see an organ grinder and his monkey play for coins in the cold December weather.  One night, she stays up late to see where they go and is disappointed to discover that they sleep on the street.  Her mother urges France not to worry about the man and his monkey, but she does.  On her way to her Christmas Eve play, she drops a nickel in the man's cup and invites him to see her performance.  On stage Frances is speechless until she sees her new friend arrive.  Then she is joyful.

Kare DiCamillo is one of the greats.  She has written Because of Winn Dixie, Flora and Ulysses, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  I even like The Tale of Despereaux, and I do not like rodent stories.  This book is naturally much simpler than her other stories, but still carries the feeling of wonder and goodness of all of her stories.

It's a good reminder to adults to not make snap judgements about people based on their lowly circumstances.  Frances's naivety actually benefits her.  She can only see the good in this poor gentleman whose music entertains her during the day.  She finds joy in the happiness of others.  Isn't that what Christmas is about? 

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