Miracle on 133rd Street

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Miracle on 133rd Street Book Poster Image
Neighbors come together in lively urban Christmas tale.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows city life in a New York neighborhood. Notes that some cultures celebrate on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

Positive Messages

Don't give up at the first sign of trouble. When something ruins your plans, think creatively and keep cool -- there may be a solution. Things can work out if everyone pulls together. Don't be afraid to ask others for help in a crisis. Christmas is about more than shopping, spending money, and stress. When you don't have your family around, celebrating with friends can be the next best thing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jose's papi is cool under pressure and thinks creatively to get the family's roast cooked. Mr. Ray is kind and enthusiastic, happily offering his pizza oven and joining Jose's family for dinner. Jose is helpful, optimistic, and sensitive to others' feelings. Mami is appreciative of all the friends' help and kindness. The apartment building residents quit complaining about Christmas hassles and learn it's more fun to relax and enjoy a good meal with neighbors.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Miracle on 133rd Street, by Sonia Manzano (who plays Maria on Sesame Street), is an exuberant tale of a Christmas Eve dinner that hits a major bump -- the roast being too big for the oven -- and is saved when a diverse group of New York neighbors and shopkeepers come together. Marjorie Priceman's bright, colorful, exuberant illustrations help sweep readers along through this fun, poignant multicultural celebration.

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What's the story?

A Puerto Rican family in New York is in their small apartment preparing for their Christmas Eve celebration when Mami discovers the roast is too big for the oven. What will they do? Papi and young son Jose put the roast in a big box and take it to "Regular Ray's Pizzeria" to see if they can use Mr. Ray's big pizza oven. On the way out, as they pass the apartments in their four-floored walk-up, neighbors open their doors to express the things they don't like about the holidays: shopping for gifts, spending too much money, muggers on the streets, snow. After the roast gets cooked in the pizza oven, they invite kind Mr. Ray to join them for dinner, and he brings cannolis for dessert. As the three carry the roast back to the apartment building through the snow, its swirling aroma seems to magically put people in a good mood. Now when they pass the apartments, their neighbors open their doors at the delicious smell, and Papi invites them to dinner, too. They add their own contributions, including the Santiagos, who bring guitars for singing carols. No more complaining -- everyone is full of Christmas cheer as they enjoy the feast together, all fitting in the tiny apartment: "It's a miracle," says Mami.

Is it any good?

With a light touch and exuberant art, this urban Christmas tale shows neighbors coming together to forget their troubles and share a feast. It's told through the eys of sensitive, upbeat young Jose, who notices how every Christmas his mother gets homesick for Puerto Rico. He also notes the holiday complaints of the building's ethnically diverse residents -- the Santiagos, the Wozenskys, the DiPalmas, Mr. Franklin, and Mrs. Whitman.

The relationships among family members, neighbors, and shopkeepers are charming. And the openness and generosity that build as the story goes on is inspiring. Marjorie Priceman's vibrant art sweeps the reader along first with wisps of snow and wind, then with the swirls of the roast's aroma. A lovely holiday story with a joyful message.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about holiday celebrations. If you celebrate Christmas, is the biggest event in your family on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Do you celebrate another winter holiday?

  • What makes this a good Christmas story? What does it have to say about how people get stressed out over the holidays?

  • What's the miracle in the story? Have you ever experienced a miracle?

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