The True Story of Christmas

Common Sense Media says

The ultimate dysfunctional family Christmas.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Almost everyone behaves badly. The humor is sarcastic; some bathroom humor as well.

Not applicable
Not applicable

A few mild expletives.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the author is having a good time here with an exaggeratedly awful family holiday, but you might want to emphasize, as she does not, the love that underlies all the bickering.

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What's the story?

Ralph, \"banished to my bedroom on Christmas Day, with no one even giving me a chance to explain,\" tells the whole true story of his Christmas with his awful relatives. There's his cousin Titania, who loves to tattle and relentlessly makes everyone watch her sing and dance; the twins, a pair of Tasmanian devils (\"having the twins around last Christmas was like living in endless retakes of an X-rated horror film\"); Great-aunt Ida, who sees vicars floating past the window and can't do anything to help because of her twisted wrist; Uncle Tristram, who's giving everyone bricks for Christmas; and worst of all, Great-granny (\"I hope both of you get boils on your bottom\"), a mean old shrew who loathes everyone.

Amidst this ultimate dysfunctional family Christmas, Aunt Susan has the brilliant idea of having a family quiz, a Christmas Visit Quiz. And that's when the wheels come off.

Is it any good?


As Lemony Snicket might say on the back of one of his books -- if, Dear Reader, you are looking for a heartwarming happy family Christmas book, full of love and the glad tidings of the season, this isn't it. If you want a lump in your throat, a tear in your eye, and a feeling that all's right with the world, pass it by. This book aims to tell what family holidays are really like.

This is wickedly, viciously funny, meant to appeal most to cynical curmudgeons (in other words your average 11-year-old), done with that dry wit that only the British seem to be able to manage. Anne Fine has always been a master craftsman among authors, but here she lets loose with broad humor, absurd exaggeration, and apparently a great deal of experience (and frustration) with family gatherings.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about past holiday gatherings and some of the moments -- good and bad -- that made them memorable. What is it about the season that seems to bring out the best -- and sometimes worst -- in people?

Book details

Author:Anne Fine
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:November 15, 2003
Number of pages:133
Read aloud:9
Read alone:9

This review of The True Story of Christmas was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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