Make this one of your new read alouds for Christmas along with POLAR EXPRESS, DECEMBER, and THE YEAR OF THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE. In GREAT JOY (Candlewick Press 2010), DiCamillo gives us the timeless story of a young girl and her fervent wish for those less fortunate during the holiday season. When Frances sees a monkey and an organ grinder sleeping amid the snow on the street, she wants more than anything to be able to help them find shelter. Christmas is the perfect time for miracles. <372>
What makes this book work so well (and avoid the schmaltzy lesson book it could become in less capable hands) is how DiCamillo uses words so beautifully. Repetition for emphasis (but delicately used), spareness for emotion (but not to the point of being obtuse), and simplicity of theme (the best kind: it's there and apparent without being didactic) all combine with incredible illustrations that glow and shine (much like Frances does). The design of the book also lends to its quiet grace.