by Audrey Couloumbis
A few days before Christmas, ten-year-old Jake’s single mother slips on the ice and breaks her leg badly, requiring an operation. A very kindly neighbor and Jake’s gruff, estranged grandfather (and his small “nightmare” dog), plus a few other relatives and family friends come together to take up the slack, and soon things are bustling along more richly than ever. Jake’s grandfather gently pushes him to get over his fear of swimming, the dog gets used to walking with strangers, chess games and movies are enjoyed, and hot meals and extra sandwiches are the order of the day. Indeed, each of the principals learns a bit from the other, and though the book’s action only lasts a few days, there are indications that Jake’s idea of what a family is might be expanding. There’s no melodrama or big crisis in this heartwarming, at times moving book, just an underlying message of caring for others, hope, and the supreme value of human connections. It’s a beautifully written, warm, charming book.