A sweet story, this is being billed as a Christmas story but it's really more of a story about childhood and being on the verge of growing up. Set in 1964, Felix Funicello, third cousin of the quite famous Annette, is in 5th grade at St. Aloysius Gonzaga. His family is warm and loving and his childhood is familiar ground. During the course of the novel, his mother goes on tv as a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off and Felix himself is on a local Connecticut show: Ranger Andy. The mishaps and entertainment sprinkled throughout the story are charming and funny. From Felix unknowingly hitting a bat with a spitball and causing his nun-teacher to have a nervous breakdown right in class to Mrs. Funicello sweeping into the Pillsbuy Bake-Off kitchens trailing toilet paper (what nerves will do to the intestinal tract!), to the penultimate scene at the out of control Christmas pageant, this will make readers of a certain age reminisce and chuckle.
In many ways, it is a mash-up of Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash (better known as the movie A Christmas Story) and Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pagaent Ever and all memoirs of growing up Catholic so it definitely doesn't break any new ground. But the gentle humor and the time of life Lamb has captured, that time when boys are still children at play but also growing into men who will shortly understand the dirty jokes they laugh at now knowing the jokes to be off-color somehow and in some way that they will eventually discover, is a particularly enchanted time, neither child nor man but an innocent bridging from the one to the other. The good news is that this quasi-holiday offering is not overwhelmingly sugary sweet. The bad news is that it is a very slight offering that ends a bit abruptly. But it is a nice book to dip into in between wrapping presents as it is breezy and quick and cute.