Wally Lamb narrates this grand slice of American life circa 1964 in the words of 10-year-old Felix Funicello. Adding to the joy, he focuses on one memorable Christmas. Felix is a fifth grader at St. Aloysius Catholic School in New London, Connecticut. Lamb as narrator is glorious; the large Funicello family is warm and distinctive while Felix's fiesty Russian classmate, Zhenya, is hilarious with her mispronunciations of which "bezball" for "baseball" is but one example. As Felix, Lamb speaks kid English and often adds breathless additions or asides to his narrative. Most boisterous is the school's live Christmas tableau during which things go merrily awry. His standout is Felix's Quebecois substitute teacher with her distinctive French laugh. Many listeners will undoubtedly add this treat
Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his listeners straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School - where Mother Filomina's word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone's business.
But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from Québec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kapakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin' and Hopin' barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.
From the Funicello family's bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off), Wishin' and Hopin' is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we've been - and how far we've come.
©2009 Wally Lamb; (P)2009 HarperCollins Publishers
"Charming....Full of pop-culture references of the day. This will have broad appeal." (Library Journal)
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