Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.

I have been saving this book because I felt it would be the perfect holiday read. The premise is wonderful and original.  Each year, after the Christmas tree is decorated, all of the ornaments come to life at night. On this particular year, Larry the Snowman "wakes up" to discover that his brother is missing. Larry and his friends break the laws of the Tree-Elders in order to try and find his brother as they escape the tree and adventure into the house.

Something was missing in this book for me.  The book lacked the whimsy to make it truly successful and it was surprisingly dark.  Bad things happen and some of the characters are too scary for little ones.  I think that is one of the main problems of the book. It sets itself up to be a family read with 24 chapters for each night of the holiday season. But it is too scary for little ones and I was baffled by Hornby's constant use of the word "flippin'" in place of a more obvious and less savory word.  It just wasn't necessary. 


I think this book would have been more successful if it had stuck to the night-time adventures of Christmas ornaments and their origins. The complication of Larry the Snowman searching for his brother and subsequently finding him "dead" was unpleasantly surprising. This, along with murderous Christmas lights and jealous killer ornaments, made the book much darker and unpleasant than a Christmas story should be.


BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. This could have been a truly original Christmas story that families could enjoy every year together. Instead, it was too dark and not whimsical enough. Perhaps with retooling, this could become a holiday favorite.


Literary Feline said...

The book sounds like it has such a great premise. It's too bad it didn't live up to your expectations. Was it marketed as a family book, Amy, do you remember? It definitely sounds more adult.

Amy said...

Litty Kitty--

It is marketed towards ages 8-12. While I don't think most kids that age would be scared of what happens in the box, I wouldn't call it a "feel good" family holiday classic. And the weird use of "flippin" throughout the book was annoying and I believe some parents would take issue with it.

it's too bad because the premise is so great!


Marie said...

Sounds positively weird! Oy.