Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Wishin' and Hopin'

Summary: It's 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he'll never forget.

LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone's turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.

Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers 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 Qu├ębec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. 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. -- Harper

I am a HUGE fan of Wally Lamb so when I discovered that he had a new book out, I could hardly wait! (This time I only had to wait a year instead of 10 plus years!) And then, when I heard that it was a holiday-themed book, I was practically beside myself. You know by now how much I love Christmas! Mr. Lamb's new novel is called WISHIN' AND HOPIN': A CHRISTMAS STORY, and it's very different than his prior novels. I mean that in a good way, though -- this book is extremely entertaining and very, very funny.

When I first picked up this book, I knew little if anything about it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's a light, easy read; and it's just a perfect way to escape the hassles and stresses of the holiday season. The story is narrated by 10 year old Felix Funicello (great name, right?); and he is most definitely a character that I will remember. I fell in love with his insight and honesty as well as his naivete. I could really relate to not being "in the know" like the rest of my classmates. Felix also happens to be one of the sweetest and funniest narrators that I've "met" in recent memory.

As far as I'm concerned, the best thing about WISHIN' AND HOPIN' was the way Mr. Lamb told this story. I absolutely love that he chose Felix to tell this story. Not only was the character of Felix developed extremely well (I mean it is a Wally Lamb character) but he was also very believable. Through the use of Felix as a narrator, the reader was able to look back at his/her own childhood and remember what it was like to be 10 years old. In addition, Mr. Lamb did an excellent job of taking the reader right back to 1964. I truly appreciated all of the cultural references, and I can imagine how much fun this book would be for a reader who had actually been a child during this time period.

WISHIN' AND HOPIN' definitely reminded me a little bit of Barbara Robinson's book THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER (one of my all-time favorite Christmas books) and THE CHRISTMAS STORY movie. All three are hilarious stories told in a young kid's voice, and they all manage to touch my heart. I can easily see including WISHIN' AND HOPIN' as part of my yearly must-read/must-see holiday entertainment list.

If you're like me and love Wally Lamb, you might want to check this out -- it's "Wally's Wishin' and Hopin' Time Machine. I found these links after finishing the novel, so I thought it was a great way to visualize some of the cultural references in the story. (I know what you're thinking -- I'm old, but not quite that old!) In addition, you can visit the publisher's Wally Lamb page to discover some of his essays, his favorite books, and even some photos of Mr. Lamb through the years.

I highly recommend WISHIN' AND HOPIN' to anyone and everyone this holiday season. It's a very entertaining read that is perfect for this time of year. The novel is funny and at the same time heart-warming; and I think it captures the essence of the Christmas season perfectly!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

13 comments:

Mary said...

I really liked this too and I'll be surprised if a movie isn't made of it. I think it's very funny and, at the same time, quite poignant. One thing I do know, it will be on my keeper shelf. Nice review!

bermudaonion said...

I bought this right after it came out and now I can't wait to read it! I think it will be my next on my reading list.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have never read a book by Wally Lamb! This sounds like a good way to get started.

Nely said...

I plan on reading this next week. Your review just got me all excited over it too. It sounds like fun. I can't wait!

♥Nely

carolsnotebook said...

I've never read anything by Wally Lamb, but this does sounds light and fun.

Jenners said...

I saw this recently and was so surprised to see that it was by Wally Lamb ... it seemed a bit "out of character" for him but I think it sounds very promising. I was kind of disappointed in "The Hour I First Believed" because I felt it was so sprawled and disjointed but this sound focused and like it plays to Lamb's strengths!

Jess said...

I just picked this one up from my library and I can't wait to read it!

Cam said...

I saw this one on the list of recent releases and thought it looked interesting. I haven't read anything by the author, so I think I'll just have to pick it up! Thanks for the review.

S. Krishna said...

I really want to read this book, though I haven't read any Wally Lamb!

Gwendolyn B. said...

I thought I was the only one left in the blog world who hadn't read Wally Lamb, but I can see from these comments that I'm wrong! I agree, though, that this sounds like the book to start with. It sounds hilarious and I know I'd enjoy a visit back to 1964!

alitareads said...

I haven't read anything by Wally Lamb, but if this book has a same sort of feel as A Christmas Story, I want to read it! Great review :)

hmsgofita said...

This one looks really cute! Great review for the holidays!

Sandy Pacyna said...

Does anyone know where I can find reader's guide questions on Wishin & Hopin?