The True Story of Christmas

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The True Story of Christmas Book Poster Image
The ultimate dysfunctional family Christmas.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

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

Violence
Sex
Language

A few mild expletives.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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're looking for a heartwarming, happy Christmas book, full of love and the season's glad tidings, 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.

Talk to your kids 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?

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