A Christmas Carol enters a new century with Michael Rosen’s middle grade update, Bah! Humbug! Harry Gruber is so excited to be Scrooge in his school’s production of A Christmas Carol, but he wishes his father, workaholic Ray, would muster even a little bit of interest. Ray sees Harry’s event as one more thing keeping him from work, which keeps everyone in Ray’s family fed and living comfortably, and he never misses a chance to let everyone know it. The family – Harry, his sister, Eva, mom Lisa, and Ray – pile into the car and drive to school, with Ray grumbling all the way. While Harry shines on stage as Scrooge, Ray sneaks off to work – and gets some Christmas visits of his own.
Bah! Humbug! uses the school performance as a parallel to Ray’s own Christmas Carol, where he experiences some ghostly visits – after a fashion – of his own. A Christmas Carol is more relevant than ever in this 24-hour society, where we can all work nonstop and chase after the next big thing: a new PlayStation; a new car; a new vacation. The story moves between the play, letting readers relive Dickens’ holiday classic, and the present, as Harry’s heart breaks time and again over his dad’s seeming ignorance and Ray wrestles with his own demons, past and present. Kids may recognize their own families in this one, but remember: Dickens wrote the story to show readers that there’s always time to change the future.
A section called “Party Like a Fezziwig” has tasty recipes, games, jokes, and Christmas carols. There’s a note about the tradition of Victorian holiday storytelling, and a biographical note about Dickens and A Christmas Carol. Tony Ross’s black and white illustrations throughout the story keep readers engaged in the story and the school play. A nice add to your middle grade holiday collection. Read a sample chapter at Candlewick’s website.