Wishin' and Hopin' are the the fictional reminiscings of Felix Funicello, a fifth-grader living in the fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut in the 1960's. Felix, now a responsible adult, begins by remembering how he contributed to the mental breakdown of his teacher at the time, Sister Dymphna. She is temporarily replaced by Madame Frechette, a vivacious teacher originally from Montreal, Canada. The remainder of the book recalls his dislike for Rosalie, the smartest kid in the class and an absolute brown noser, and his friendships with Lonny, the class underachiever and Zhenya, the new student from Russia. The story culminates with the Christmas pageant, when his class does "tableaux" to represent portions of the Christmas story under Madame's careful direction (ensuing in hilarity, if course).
I enjoyed this story and I agree with Bermudaonion's review that it is a story very reminiscient of the classic movie A Christmas Story. It's cute and quirky, and it reminds us of a time when things were simpler. In our current computer- and cell phone- obsessed society it's getting harder to remember a time when life revolved around family and friends and simple pleasures. Felix's Italian family runs the lunch counter at the local bus station in the story and this counter is the centre of both a few jokes as well as some family bonding. Felix is a great character, sweet for the most part with his innocence still primarily intact, and even though this book didn't initially read like a Christmas story, it sure left me with a Christmas feeling at the end.
Thank-you to Deanna at HarperCollins for this review copy. You can browse inside this book here. This is my second book for the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge.