This Christmas, join Michael Rosen and Tony Ross with their unforgettable retelling of Charles Dickens's beloved holiday classic. Harry Gruber plays the role of Scrooge in his school's production of "A Christmas Carol," and he is extra nervous about tonight's performance because his father is in the audience — not away for business, as usual. Will the story's message of Christmas cheer and the redemptive power of love reach his father's distracted Scrooge heart?
Okay then, let's just file this under "books that did not go where I thought they were going"! I think I was expecting mostly an updated, "Great Illustrated Classics" type version of the original story. Nothing terribly deep, really.
Instead, I got tension from page one, with conflicting emotions coming from in all directions, not just from Harry but from his parents and little sister. In between the lines of the play Harry is starring in, we have him musing about his father (Had he always been "there" rather than "here"?) , his mother's anger and frustration (Lisa turned to look at the man she thought loved her and their family more than anything in the world.), Eva feeling exasperated with her mother one minute, and reacting in a wise-beyond-her-years way to the parallels in the play and her own life the next.
And Harry's father - who leaves the play almost as soon as it begins - having his own experiences with the ghosts of his past, present and future. While at first we may see him as the one-dimensional Scrooge, he has his own truths to reveal:(It was hard to be thankful when someone was telling you to be thankful...Ray felt as if he had never been allowed to enjoy anything in some pure, clear way.)
Definitely not a lighthearted read for the younger grades - and perhaps as much for the adults to read. I was worried that, for that very reason, it wouldn't mean very much to younger readers. Harry comes to some conclusions of his own, however, as he delivers his lines and notices his father's continual absence: "Maybe Dad wouldn't ever understand what really matters. At the end of the day, what mattered here was that Harry himself was understanding it."
Well. Did Dad ever understand it? I'm not going to tell you. I am just going to let you read it yourself - but make sure you have a tissue or two handy.