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 Québec, 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
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.