Tonawanda News

December 28, 2011

BOOK NOOK: “The Bestest, Specialist Christmas Ever”

By Paul Lane
The Tonawanda News

— — Before I could even get into the new kids’ book from Western New York-based author Priscilla Hill, I had a problem.

“The Bestest, Specialist Christmas Ever” is a cute enough title, but it’s not grammatically correct. “Specialist” does not refer to the superlative form of the word special, as in “the most special.” Instead, “specialist” as it appears in this title refers to one who specializes in something.

That gaffe unfortunately gave me a bad feeling about the rest of the book. Thankfully, that feeling was wrong, as the strong story and detailed, compelling illustrations made up for the introductory mistake.

The book is set in the 6-year-old narrator’s home during Christmas 1948. She and her 5-year-old brother made out quite well in terms of gifts — dolls and cowboy hats galore — but all she could think about was her friend and her family, who typically didn’t get much of anything for Christmas.

Some of the other neighborhood kids caused her to question her faith in Santa Claus. Her mother assured her of Saint Nick’s existence, saying that her family members gave Santa help that some other families could not afford to offer.

That’s where the narrator decided to step in.

With her mother’s approval, she and her brother each picked out a couple new items to give to her friend and her family. Soon other people in the neighborhood did the same thing.

That spirit of giving, she concluded, was what made Christmas so special.

Hill did a good job of telling the story in a way that’s digestible for children yet doesn’t talk down to them. The lesson is there to be grasped, but she doesn’t hit the reader over the head with it, instead letting an enjoyable tale deliver its moral in the subtext.

She worked well in tandem with illustrator Anwar Morse to tell a tale of when a young child first discovers it truly is better to give than receive.

That’s a story any parent can easily get behind.

And that’s way more important than the occasional misspelling.

Contact Paul Lane at