Today, we are six months out from Christmas and I enjoyed Christmas in June with a delightful seasonal novella by Christopher de Vinck, Mr. Nicholas: A Magical Christmas Tale. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.
I came across the title on NetGalley and was intrigued by the description, which included a Mister Rogers allusion, and the fact that the book was written by a friend of Fred Rogers. Plus, I do like Christmas stories!
Overall, I enjoyed the plot line and whimsy, and especially the portrayal of make-believe, from an adult perspective. The narrative was sweet and delightful and I appreciated the character development. Hesitant recommendation due to the treatment of Down Syndrome.
The book lived up to my expectations. I was anticipating a heartwarming, wonder-filled story that brought to heart the innocence of childhood, and the book certainly delivered.
I enjoyed following the main character’s development and maturation, through a harkening back to the playfulness of childhood. This was a refreshing reversal of the typical “coming of age” story, and reminded me of a stellar classic, Manalive, by G.K. Chesterton.
Jim, the main character, is a reporter for the New York Times. Ambitious, Jim sacrifices family time to his career and is more interested in watching baseball than having a meaningful conversation with his Anna.
J. B., Jim’s ten year-old son, is my favorite character. Imaginative and intuitive, J.B. is an adorable kid who has Down Syndrome. J.B. enjoys watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and refers to his father as “Darth Vader.”
Anna, Jim’s wife, is an artist who feels neglected by her husband. Anna and Jim are going through a separation.
Mr. Nicholas, a subject of local intrigue, owns the hardware store and has an excellent rapport with children.
Treatment of Down Syndrome
Jim is painfully honest in his descriptions of his experience of having a child with Down Syndrome. In his narration, Jim matter-of-factly refers to J.B. as “ugly” (at least as an infant) and “useless.”
While I think that the term “useless” is meant to contrast with J.B’s inherent value— he is not lovable because of the things he does, but because of who he is— I don’t think this point really comes across in the text. While Jim’s attitude changes over time, he doesn’t seem to regret his previous mentality. There’s definitely s turning point, but I think it should have been more pronounced.
This makes for an upbeat story, but I’m uncomfortable with the treatment of Down Syndrome.