Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, December 4, 2011: The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog (and Other Christmas Carol Ripoffs)

Dear Gentle Readers,

Ever since unpacking her eight boxes of Christmas decorations and pillows and blankets and books and cards and such from the past eight years, which Madame L did a few days ago, she has been enjoying re-reading some of the Christmas books. Her favorite of all time is, of course, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." Even though she thinks "A Christmas Carol" should be her favorite.

What Madame L likes best about these Christmas books is how short they are, so she can read them quickly, have a couple of chuckles, wipe away a tear or two, and get on with Christmas.

One of her other favorites is Dave Barry's "The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog"  (available from for $11.20), a hilarious and sometimes heartwarming story in which:

---The narrator is a boy who is just figuring out that he likes girls and who lives in a town called Asquont, New York, the name of which he thinks the Indians gave the town just so they could chuckle when they heard the white townsfolk say the name "Asquont";
---The beloved family dog is dying, and eventually dies;
---The kids are in their church's Christmas pageant;
---There's a problem in the church (in this story, possibly because it's written by someone who actually has a child's sense of humor, the problem is bats in the belfry [literally] and a big pile of bat poop that falls on the kids during the Christmas pageant);;
---The dad and mom have some disagreements about how things should be done in life, with the kids, with their school projects, with the Christmas pageant, and pretty much everything else (in other words, they're a normal married couple);
---Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog jumps into the family car just in time to save the feelings of the little girl who especially loved the family dog who died; and
---Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog arrives at the church just in time to save the kids from the big pile of bat poop that falls on the kids (which however he has caused to fall at that particular moment).

Sound familiar? Oh yeah. And, as Madame L has already mentioned, it's cute and enjoyable holiday reading. Not bad at all. 

For instance, it's not as bad as turning on the TV as Madame L did the other night just in time to see Peter Falk dressed up as a saleswoman with a lopsided wig and even more lopsided lipstick giving advice to a young man looking for a Christmas present for some girl he'd just met (or something like that; Madame L confesses she changed the channel so fast she didn't see even the next two minutes of the show).***(See below)

So, what's Madame L's point?

It's this: Madame L and YOU, DEAR AND FAITHFUL READERS, could put our heads together and write a Christmas story just as lovable and humorous and heartwarming as most anything any of us has ever read since "The Christmas Carol" was published in 1843.

Here's what we need: 

---A narrator (first person is funniest, especially if it's a kid);
---The narrator's family and/or best friend and/or girlfriend and/or boyfriend;
---A lot of beliefs (including nostalgic nonsense and childish illusions) about the joy and harmony everyone supposedly experiences at Christmas time;
---At least one character (can be a pet) who is dying, sad, lonely, homeless, in need of help, etc;
---At least one character who doesn't believe in Christmas (who of course will get the Christmas spirit by the end of the story);
---A huge problem that engulfs the characters, shedding doubt on their Christmas beliefs;
---A semi-magical, maybe even a deux-ex-machina, solution to the problem (for example, bat poop falling on the Christmas pageant and an adorable dog saving the kids from being engulfed in it), resulting in:
---Everyone, even the grouchy Christmas-hater, feeling warm and loved, and therefore participating in the joy of the season.

Oh, never fear, Madame L is not being cynical in suggesting that we write such a story. She just thinks we could write a good story, have a fun time doing it, and get into the Christmas spirit.

Ready? Send suggestions to Madame L by commenting or by e-mailing her at [ellemadame {at}].

Madame L will be away from her desk for the next few days and won't be able to reply immediately, so she hopes you'll fill up her email and comment box with ideas for her to come home to.

Merry Christmas!

Madame L

***Madame L just looked online for that Peter Falk Christmas story. It's called "When Angels Come to Town." Peter Falk is an angel named Max

Madame L made a Mister Yuck face when she read the following quote from the TV movie's promotional materials: 

"As was the case in the earlier A Town Without Christmas and Finding John Christmas, the cagey Max adopts several disguises in the course of his assignment, at one point showing up in drag!"

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