Cover image for The true story of Christmas
Title:
The true story of Christmas
Author:
Fine, Anne.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
133 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
A Christmas quiz brings out some hidden truths for the Montfield family.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
680 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.4 3.0 71692.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.7 6 Quiz: 34374 Guided reading level: Q.
ISBN:
9780385731300

9780385901567
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Everyone knows the story of Christmas. Decking the halls with boughs of holly. Hanging stockings by the chimney with care. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Then there's the true story of Christmas. And Ralph Mountfield is smack in the middle of it. Great Granny's crustier than ever. Grandpa's singing to the dog. Great Aunt Ida is completely crackers. Uncle Tristam's giving out bricks. The cousins are whining and throwing tantrums. Mum's looking for Dad. Dad's looking for aspirin. And Ralph is looking to stay out of trouble. But when a Christmas Quiz brings out some hidden truths, trouble is exactly what Ralph finds. It's anything but a silent, holy night for the Mountfield family!


Author Notes

Anne Fine was the second Children's Laureate in Britain between 2001 and 2003. She is a two time winner of the Carnegie Medal, Britain's most coveted children's literature award, and has also won the Guardian Children's Literature Award, the Whitbread Children's Novel Award twice, and a Smarties Prize. She also won the Publishing News Children's Author of the Year Award in 1990 and again in 1993. In 2010 she won the inaugural Good Writing Award.

Her books for older children include the award winning The Tulip Touch, Goggle-Eyes, which was adapted for television by the BBC and The Devil Walks. Twentieth Century Fox filmed her novel Madame Doubtfire as Mrs Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams. She also writes critically acclaimed adult novels as well. Her work has been translated into twenty-five languages, and has over forty books to her credit.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-7. Fine always has an amusing take on things, and here she casts a very British eye on Christmas. Ralph Mountfield, banished to his bed on Christmas Day, details what happens when 16 relatives descend on his house, and a family feud does them in. It's hard to decide who is the worst of the group: cousin Titania, an egotistical little twit who fancies herself a fairy; Great-gran, whose favorite line is, If I had my own teeth, I'd bite you ; or the twins, who enjoy pelting dinner rolls at the cat. If Fine's humor isn't black, it's certainly very dark brown, so this story may best suit readers somewhat older than her usual audience. But kids who get the bitter, ironic tone will find this very funny, and fans of Harry Potter will enjoy the Briticisms and feel as if they've found their way to an all-Dursley Christmas. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In what could be the funniest Christmas novel since Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Fine (Alias Madame Doubtfire) sends up the traditional family get-together with a chronicle of the two hideous days in which ridiculously rude relatives descend on narrator Ralph's home. There's Great-granny, whose idea of Christmas spirit is said to be "going off to look for some firstborns to slaughter"; show-offy and tale-bearing cousin Titania, who had been okay as a toddler "but then Aunt Susan decided that Titania was `gifted' "; and a host of others, most of them occasioning wicked little subplots and all of them bearing at least a kernel of resemblance to people whom readers might know. Fine gleefully stokes the fires, leading up to the extended family's hilarious gift exchange: in an attempt to avoid the prior year's "ugly free-for-all grabbing," Ralph's mother insists that they be opened one-by-one-which enables the relatives to trace the multiple instances of gift recycling. Remarkably, Fine pulls this off without any cynicism-beneath her satire, rich veins of sympathy flow. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-Banished to his room on Christmas Day, Ralph recounts the disasters that occur when his highly eccentric relatives come together to celebrate the holiday. Funny dialogue ("-I'm not going to sing `Away in a Manger' because I don't love the Little Lord Jesus and I don't think he has a sweet head-"); unique characters, from a demonic preschooler to a daft great-aunt; and hilarious but believable situations make this book a great read-aloud. It's reminiscent of Helen Cresswell's "Bagthorpes Saga" (Macmillan; o.p.), but accessible to younger readers. Fine is in fine form here.-S. P. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

My side of the story Perhaps you'd care to hear my side of the story? Here am I, Ralph William Mountfield, banished to my bedroom on Christmas Day, with no one even giving me a chance to explain. But it was all Titania's fault, really. Everyone said we were just putting on an act when we stood, hands spread, mouths open, insisting there was nothing we could have done. "Acting all injured," said Aunt Miriam. "If you put both of them in a bag and punched it, whichever one you hit would deserve it," said Great-granny. But everyone knows I can't act. My brother, Harry, can. He played the Slough of Despond--that means bog of despair--when our school put on Pilgrim's Progress, and it's not easy, acting a mud swamp. But all I've ever been allowed to be is one of the oysters in "The Walrus and the Carpenter" in this year's Christmas show. (And even then, everyone complained that I looked far too happy while I was being eaten.) So I couldn't have been putting it on. But even if I were, I would have been about the only person in the house who wasn't wearing a false face and saying things they didn't mean. Titania's Christmas Quiz proved that. Titania Neither Harry nor I can stand Titania. (No one can, actually.) Her mum is our mum's sister, so we are cousins, and ever since she was born she's come to stay twice a year. She wasn't too bad when she was a baby. Even as a toddler she wasn't all that much trouble, lying for hours in her little barred travel bed, talking to her fingers. (I even caught her singing to the wallpaper once--a song called "Mucking About in the Garden.") We had a good game with her too. You see, for years, she couldn't say her rs properly, so Harry and I quite enjoyed trailing her round the house, teasing her till she told us we were "weally wery wubbish!" But then Aunt Susan decided that Titania was "gifted." (Everyone in our family thought she was just a dreadful know-all, but there you are, that's parents for you.) And after that, Titania became intolerable. We had to sit quietly about a million times (without even being allowed to snigger) while she did her "I'm a Little Teapot" performance. Then she took to saying that she could see fairies at the bottom of the garden, and wearing frocks so stupid and frilly that once, when she lost her pretend diamond necklace, it must have been half an hour before it even managed to work its way far enough down to get found again in her knickers. I used to have to hold her hand all the way to the shop when she wanted to buy her "fairy dust" (pink sherbet). It was embarrassing. I used to tell everyone she was off to a fancy-dress party. Harry wouldn't hold her hand at all. If it was his turn to take her, he'd simply bribe me into doing it. "What, only fifty pence?" I'd complain. "It's not much, is it?" he'd admit. "But it looks quite a lot, sitting next to nothing." So I'd agree to go. Harry gets what he wants a lot more often than I do. He's a year older than I am and Mum's favorite. (Mum says she doesn't have a favorite, but I wasn't born yesterday.) The rest of the family The easiest way of introducing you to everyone else is to tell you three of the things I heard them saying over the last two days. MUM: "Oh, Ralph. Be an angel and see if the coast is clear all the way to the bathroom." "Ralph, darling, would you just carry this toast through for me?" "Ralph, poppet. Be a sweetie, and rush up and fetch Daddy his aspirins." DAD: "I regret, Ralph, that, due to the demands of this stupid oversized turkey, this area of the kitchen is temporarily closed to idle traffic such as yourself." "My head feels like a lump of boiled owl." "Does anyone else think this toast tastes like buttered Brillo pads?" UNCLE TRISTRAM (he's my mum's brother, and he's thirty-one): "Hi, Ralph. I was just enjoying myself throwing spuds at this cat through the window." "Shhh! Don't distract me. I'm listing the ten things I hate most about Great-granny." "I found this child abandoned in the bath. It's wrinkled as a prune. Does anyone want it?" GREAT-GRANNY: "If I had my own teeth, I'd bite you." "By the time I was your age, I had read Milton." "Try not to act sillier than you look." GREAT-AUNT IDA: "I'd love to help you in the kitchen, Tansy, but what with my very weak wrist . . ." "I'd offer to lay the dining room table for lunch for you, Tansy, but my poor dear wrist would simply shriek, 'No!' " "Help wash up? Oh, impossible! My wrist bone is as brittle as crispbread. Can't you find someone else?" GRANDPA (this will be easier to follow if I explain that Grandpa mostly walks round with his toolbox, singing to our dog, Bruno, and explaining to him how he plans to fix things): "I can't go hunting with you, Jake, 'Cause I'm out chasin' wimmin . . ." "As you'll see, Bruno, someone has used quite the wrong size of screw here, and that has contributed appreciably to the problem." "Roses round the door, Babies on the floor, Happy vall-eee, happy vall-ee-- And yoo-oooo." There are a few more people in the house, but that's enough to get you started. CHRISTMAS EVE Writing letters to Santa On Christmas Eve morning, everyone arrived in their separate clumps, and there was all the usual fuss about bagging the best beds and warmest rooms. Great-granny wanted windows facing south. ("So she can quarrel with the moon all night," Dad suggested.) Then Great-aunt Ida had to tell us all about her "twisted wrist." ("That makes a change," said Mum. "Usually it's a sprained ankle so she can park in the comfiest chair and not move for six days.") After that, Titania had one of her "sensitive" fits, saying she wouldn't be able to sleep in the room she'd been given because "the wall has got stains in the shapes of ugly faces." "You ought to feel more at home, then," Harry said. He got sent to his room for that. So then, of course, I was the one who had to swap beds with Titania. (And still Mum claims Harry isn't her favorite.) Then Aunt Susan dragged everyone out for a nature walk. (Harry got out of it by pretending he hadn't heard Mum say he could come down again.) There is a limit to how exciting anyone can make the life history of a holly berry sound, so I wasn't really listening when she went on to mistletoe. Excerpted from The True Story of Christmas by Anne Fine All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.