Guest Review: The Paper Bag Christmas

Hello everyone!  My name is Krystal and I’m the blogger behind Books Are My Thing.  My favorite genre is fantasy, but I like to read a little bit of everything.  When Charlie posted that she wanted to do a Christmas theme for December, I knew just the book to write about.

I picked up The Paper Bag Christmas at the campus bookstore when I was in college, say 5 or 6 years ago, and I’ve read it a couple times since then.

The-Paper-Bag-Christmas1

The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Mine:

Dr. Christopher Ringle is the last person you’d expect to find moonlighting as Santa Claus at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. But it is there that he meets a young man named Molar Alan, who desperately needs a new perspective on the underlying value of Christmas. Dr. Ringle recruits Mo and his older brother as volunteers at a nearby children’s hospital for the holiday season. At the hospital, Mo is tasked to help bring holiday cheer to the young cancer patients on the fifth floor. His biggest challenge is befriending a decidedly angry girl who is so embarrassed by her scarred appearance that she hides her face behind the safety of a paper bag. Almost in spite of himself, Mo finds that Christmas joy emanates from a source far greater than the North Pole, while the young girl learns that she is more beautiful than she had ever imagined.

The prologue and epilogue make it sound like the story in this book might be real, and I think that really adds to the rest of the story.  After the prologue, we start out with Aaron and Molar being drug to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap, only to find out this isn’t your typical Santa Claus.  They end up getting volunteered to help out at the hospital that Santa, or Dr. Ringle, works at.  This is where they meet Madhu and Katrina, who will forever change how they view Christmas.

Aaron’s role is mostly a back-up character, with Madhu, Katrina, and Molar taking front and center, despite the fact that Aaron is Molar’s brother.  I think it would have been nice to hear from him a little more. Molar, whom the story is told in the point of view of, felt like a genuine 9-year-old boy, from filling every single space on his wish list to accepting a dangerous gurney racing challenge.  Molar grows a lot during his time volunteering at the hospital, and despite only being 9, it really felt like a coming-of-age thing for him.

I felt Madhu was stereotyped as the “typical Indian boy”, which kind of irritated me, but also lent itself to a great lesson at the end of the book since he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Katrina was, well… she’s hard to analyze.  If you can picture a little girl who has lost all of her family and is dying of terminal cancer, well, that’s her. She’s afraid to open up to anyone at first, and I don’t blame her.  Kids can be mean.  Still, she grows during this story as well, and is given the one thing she never thought she’d get.

Despite some of the stereotypes (Madhu isn’t the only one), there’s a lot of good messages in this book. At one point the kids are making fun of Katrina’s paper bag during the Christmas pageant rehearsal, and Molar contemplates that the other kids are “behaving completely un-Christ-like.” When Katrina is afraid to go on stage for fear that the adults will laugh at her paper bag, Molar tries to console her by saying that they won’t laugh. He goes on to think to himself, “But I knew better. People always laugh when they don’t understand.” How TRUE is it that when we are uncomfortable with something or don’t understand, we make fun of it or laugh it off?

Madhu and Katrina’s gifts to the baby Jesus are what brings tears to my eyes when I read this story. Children can be so profound when you least expect it. These kids really did understand the meaning of Christmas.

The Paper Bag Christmas is a joyful and sad story all in one.  It makes you reflect on what Christmas is really about. It’s a great coming-of-age story, showcasing a little boy’s realization that there’s more to Christmas than just Santa and presents. I’d recommend it to anyone who needs a reminder of what the holiday season is about.  4 out of 5 stars

3 thoughts on “Guest Review: The Paper Bag Christmas

  1. Excellent review, Krystal! I had to check it out when I saw the picture on Booknificent because I read this book a few years ago and found it very moving, definitely a Christmas favorite of mine. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! This looks really good. I’m going to be on the lookout for it. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday! Hope your Advent/countdown to Christmas is going well!
    Tina

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