A Christmas Carol: In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
A Christmas Carol: In Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas Book Poster Image
Scrooge learns compassion in granddaddy of Christmas tales.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about the plight of the poor in mid-19th century London, and get a view into other aspects of English life at that time, such as jobs, gender roles, food and drink, and Christmas traditions.

Positive Messages

Love and kindness are more important than money. Also, it's never too late to change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Love sustains the Cratchit family, despite their struggles. They are grateful for the little they have. Scrooge shows that, even late in life, people can learn from their past mistakes and change for the better.


There's suffering in A Christmas Carol -- from hunger and cold, and emotional anguish -- but no physical violence.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some adults drink wine. Sailors drink rum. There's gin in the Cratchits' Christmas punch, and their pudding is flamed using brandy. A man smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol is a delight for advanced readers, and it makes a perfect Christmastime read-aloud. The beloved story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who's haunted by spirits on Christmas Eve and learns how to be a better man, has reminded generations of readers to learn from past mistakes and to give openheartedly to those who are less fortunate. There are some scary parts: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is foreboding, and descriptions of impoverished children, and of a family mourning the death of a child, may be upsetting to sensitive readers. Adults consume wine and rum in the story, and the Cratchits put gin in their hot Christmas punch (so, presumably, the alcohol burns off). This story has been adapted for the small and large screen many times, from classic 1938 and 1951 black-and-white movies to Scrooged with Bill Murray to the delightful musical Scrooge starring Albert FinneyThe Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine, and a host of animated versions. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2, 5, 9, and 10-year-old Written bylynnlovesicecream December 11, 2009

For good readers over age 9.

Reading the classics is great experience when they are well-written. Sure, it's challenging but we want their brains to be stretched a lot more than Diary... Continue reading
Adult Written byLowe's man January 6, 2014

not to be missed

This story is about more than just Christmas itself. It's also about how past life experiences can make you the kind of person you are later in life. It... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byReillyGuy2 November 17, 2011

Good, but Boring and slightly Confusing

Although this book has a good storyline, it can get a bit boring and confusing at times.
Teen, 14 years old Written byjacquelinejulien June 10, 2011

Nice Christmas Story

I read this fiction novel, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and it was a nice book, which I would reccomend it to anyone 7 and older, since it can be a bit... Continue reading

What's the story?

In A CHRISTMAS CAROL, stingy and mean businessman Ebenezer Scrooge cares only about money. He's unkind to his clerk, Bob Cratchit, and he has no patience for his warm, generous nephew, Fred. He coldly rebuffs two charity workers who want him to donate money to help care for the destitute at Christmas. At home after work, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells Scrooge to expect visits from three more ghosts: the spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. The spirits force Scrooge to reckon with his past mistakes, the suffering he causes every day, and the future he can expect if he does not change his ways. 


Is it any good?

Dickens' classic novella is a cultural touchstone that's not to be missed at the holidays. It's got many of the best Dickensian qualities: dark London streets, needy children, a family that is poor in material things but rich in love, estranged family members, the triumph of good over evil, plus Christmas and ghosts. It's a marvelous story with a moral lesson -- that if we give what we can, we can make a difference -- that never gets old. Because this novella is so much shorter than Dickens' famously long novels, it makes a great (and familiar) introduction to his work.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the children who are called Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol. What does Scrooge learn from facing them? What did you learn?

  • Have you seen any movies of the Christmas Carol story? How were they different from the book? 

  • A Christmas Carol is still beloved more than 150 years after it was first published. What makes it a seasonal favorite still, after all these years?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love holiday tales and classic books

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