The Paper Bag Christmas
Kevin Alan Milne
Center Street (2008)
Reviewed by Leslie Granier for Reader Views (12/08)
Set in 1980, “The Paper Bag Christmas” tells the story of two brothers, Aaron and Molar (ages eleven and nine, respectively), who are taken to the mall to give their Christmas lists to Santa. In actuality, their parents set up a meeting with this special Santa to teach them more about the spirit and meaning of Christmas. “Santa” is a pediatric oncologist at a children’s hospital who enlists Aaron and Molar to act as his elves to collect the wish lists of his patients. In addition, each boy is assigned to a specific patient to get to know them and to help them however they can. Aaron is paired with Madhu who has liver cancer. Molar is to assist Katrina who is self-conscious of her appearance and has no friends. As they spend time with these brave children, the boys learn valuable lessons about courage, friendship, and selflessness.
This is an excellent book and should be read by everyone ten years of age or older. It is told from Molar’s perspective, which will make it easier for children to relate to what is happening. The reader will experience a wide range of emotions – from happiness and laughter to tears of joy and sorrow. Everyone who reads this book will realize it truly is more rewarding to give than to receive.
I enjoyed how the story flowed. The transformation of Aaron and Molar from children who asked for everything they could possibly think of for Christmas into generous and caring ones was well chronicled. The boys matured but still were able to act like children, doing fun things such as participating in a Christmas pageant. The author did a fine job of keeping the story light and magical without dwelling too much on the patients’ illnesses. I loved the ending because it showed how this experience affected their lives and led to the beginning of new family traditions.
In these times of greed and materialism, this story in “The Paper Bag Christmas” by Kevin Alan Milne provides a refreshing look at good things people can do for others during the holidays. How would you react to getting a paper bag as a Christmas present? I guess it really depends on what you value in life.