What Child Is This? A Christmas Story

Common Sense Media says

Foster child wishes for a family for Christmas.





What parents need to know

Violence & scariness
Not applicable

A couple of instances of mild swearing.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a tearjerker. If you're not up for weeping over it with your child, best to trot out Night Before Christmas instead. There are some toy brands mentioned, there is some mild swearing, and Matt's mother is a drug addict. Also, characters don't believe in Santa.

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What's the story?

Liz is a child of privilege looking for deeper meaning in her life after the death of her infant niece. Tack is the hardworking, caring son of a restauranteur who wants to help others. Matt is a longtime foster child filled with rage. And 8-year-old Katie, also a foster child, just wants a family.

These four are brought unexpectedly together when Tack's father creates a wish tree for the needy in his restaurant, Matt hangs up Katie's wish for a family, and Liz's callous father rips it up. But Katie has had her hopes unreasonably raised, and when she sees the wish is gone, she believes that means a family has chosen her.

Is it any good?


Yes, this is a string of clichés: loving orphan needing a family, callous rich people, near death in the snow, warm hearts, happy endings, a few good sobs along the way. But when it's stylishly and lyrically done by a veteran YA novelist, and it's December, that most uncynical of months -- well, what more could anyone want? This is what happens when a cliché is put into the hands of a master.

Before the waterworks start in the last quarter of the book, take time to savor Caroline Cooney's beautiful writing, the way she allows the reader to climb inside the heads of the major characters, and the chapter titles, each a line from a different carol that relates to the story. Come January you may feel sheepish about having sobbed over this one, but during the holidays it touches the heart in the most satisfying way -- so powerfully, in fact, that it may get the whole family out of the house on a quest to help others.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the foster care system, and what it must be like to be a part of it. The book gives especially good insights into the thoughts and feelings of kids with no fixed home. Also, was Matt wrong to hang up Katie's wish? Was Liz's father right? How do the chapter titles -- lines from different carols -- enhance the story?

Book details

Author:Caroline B. Cooney
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Delacorte Press
Publication date:December 19, 2005
Number of pages:150
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 14
Read aloud:8
Read alone:9

This review of What Child Is This? A Christmas Story 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.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written byKMN16 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

It's a great book to read for the season.

I fell that this book brought out the best of me. I think you will have a different aspect on life and how you feel about "different" people if you read this book. It helps you to "but yourself in their shoes". I love this book. The first book I have read and actually finished at the age of 17! haha
Teen, 13 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

this book is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!


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