Reviews for Wishin' and Hopin' : A Christmas Story

Booklist Reviews 2009 October #2
Lamb, best known for his Oprah-anointed She's Come Undone (1992), offers up a charmingly nostalgic tale for the holidays. Felix Funicello, a distinguished professor of film studies, recalls an eventful fall. In 1964, he was a mischievous fifth-grader who spent his days getting into trouble with his best friend, Lonny, and fantasizing about his third cousin, actress Annette Funicello, whose poster graced the wall of Felix's family's bus-station diner. A well-meaning scamp, Felix inadvertently causes Sister Dymphyna, his teacher, to have a breakdown when he scares a bat out of hiding during class. The vibrant Madame Marguerite takes over the class and shakes things up, as does the arrival of a new student: the bawdy and daring Zhenya, whose thick accent, colorful language, and athletic prowess make her a hit with the boys. Big things loom for Felix--his mother is going to be in a televised baking contest, and he'll be in the Christmas nativity play, then a calamity provides him with an unexpected chance to shine. Sweet and old-fashioned, Lamb's Christmas yarn will appeal to readers wistful for more-innocent days. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 October #2
Lightweight holiday fare in the entirely predictable subgenre of What Else Can Go Wrong at the Christmas Pageant?Lamb (The Hour I First Believed, 2008, etc.) takes half the novel just to get around to Yuletide. Up until that time, he lays sometimes laborious, sometimes lighthearted groundwork at the Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School of New London, Conn., in the fall of 1964. It seems that Sister Dymphna has had a serious emotional meltdown in front of her class, necessitating the arrival of fearsome but charismatic Madame Marguerite Frechette, a Québécoise whose gifts include directing plays--or in this case a set of tableaux vivants for the school's Christmas production. Fifth-grader Felix Funicello is both narrator and imp of the perverse. And yes, his family is related to the renowned Annette Funicello, whose posters adorn the walls at the bus-depot lunch counter Felix's father runs. (At one point the boy has to confess to a priest that he French-kissed the sexy poster of Annette in her How to Stuff a Wild Bikini phase.) Bad luck stalks Felix like an obstinate shadow, especially as three big events are beginning to intersect in his life: the aforementioned Christmas program, his mother's appearance as a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off (her recipe: Shepherd's Pie Italiano) and Felix's TV debut on The Ranger Andy Show. Readers obviously collude in the deal, for they know that nothing good will happen on any of these fronts. Sure enough, the pageant performers embarrass themselves and their parents with inappropriate off-the-cuff witticisms; Ma gets the trots during her appearance on Art Linkletter's show (the shepherd's pie burns); and Felix tells Ranger Andy an off-color joke that of course is carried live on local networks. Our narrator has two foils here: the egregiously obnoxious Rosalie Twerski (aka "Turdski"), who desperately wants the part of Mary in the pageant, and the exotic Zhenya Kabakova, newly arrived from Russia and suspected (by Rosalie) of being a communist. Flimsy and barely entertaining. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 October #1

In this charming departure for Lamb (The Hour I First Believed), feisty fifth grader Felix Funicello (yes, distant cousin to Annette) anticipates Christmas. It's 1964 in blue-collar Connecticut, and Felix worries that he's caused Sister Dymphna's mental breakdown. When the school's Christmas pageant rolls around, the school brownnoser and the new Russian girl duke it out over who gets to play Mary. Full of pop-culture references of the day (the Beatles, for example, as well as the Queen Mouseketeer), this will have broad appeal.

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