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Cover image for A Christmas sonata
A Christmas sonata
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 1991.
Physical Description:
76 pages cm
When a little boy spends Christmas with his dying cousin, they discover that Santa really does exist.
Added Author:


Call Number
Christmas Paulsen

On Order



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Author Notes

Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939 in Minnesota. He was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California when he realized he wanted to be a writer. He left his job and spent the next year in Hollywood as a magazine proofreader. His first book, Special War, was published in 1966. He has written more than 175 books for young adults including Brian's Winter, Winterkill, Harris and Me, Woodsong, Winterdance, The Transall Saga, Soldier's Heart, This Side of Wild, and Guts: The True Stories Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books. Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room are Newbery Honor Books. He was the recipient of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Horn Book Review

When a young child and his mother go to spend Christmas with relatives in Minnesota while his soldier father is overseas, the boy and his dying cousin have their faith in Santa Claus restored. The details of World War II America and of life in northern Minnesota ring with authenticity, but the story is saccharine and sentimental. From HORN BOOK 1997, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Tapping his sources for The Cookcamp (1991) once again, Paulsen tells another evocative story about a small boy alone with his mother during WW II. It could be the same boy, perhaps a year later, who describes their long train journey to northern Minnesota to visit an aunt and uncle who live behind their country store. The boy is troubled by doubts: Before they left Chicago, he glimpsed a mean old neighbor, Mr. Henderson, dressed in a Santa suit. Is it still worth trying to be good if Mr. Henderson is Santa, or if Santa doesn't exist at all? Also, the boy's slightly older cousin Matthew--bedridden and known to be dying--is a subduing source of puzzlement: The boy's father might die in Europe, meaning that he would never come home--but Matthew is already home. What, then, can dying mean? Skillfully and unsentimentally, Paulsen depicts the adults' grief as they prepare for Matthew's last Christmas through the perceptions of a narrator who is so young that he can't really comprehend, but is already a thoughtful and caring individual. The boys' friendly interaction--Matthew contrives games they can share and they worry together about Santa's existence--ring especially true. In the end, a Santa in whom the boys can believe does turn up; it's up to the reader to judge whether he's Uncle Ben's doing, or Paulsen's. A holiday heartwarmer that will appeal to a wide audience. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 8-12)

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-7. Once again, as he did in The Cookcamp [BKL Mr 1 91], Paulsen envisions a specific time through the eyes of an unnamed boy. As Christmas, 1943, approaches, the preschool child inadvertently makes two weighty discoveries, and this short novel intricately weaves them into a poignant emotional experience. First, an unpleasant neighbor of the boy, who dislikes children in general and the boy in particular, claims to be Santa Claus when caught dressed up as the holiday figure. Second, the boy's slightly older cousin Matthew, who doesn't believe in Santa, is dying. Because the boy's father is in Europe fighting the war, the boy and his mother travel to northern Minnesota to spend the holiday with Uncle Ben, Aunt Marilyn, and Matthew. While the boys savor the season as best they can, it is the adults who champion the theme that a willingness to believe can work miracles. Paulsen is a master of characterization and point of view. His ability to get inside the mind of a child and communicate his perceptions starkly, precisely and realistically is a powerful literary tool, and the descriptive first-person narrative paints a picture so vivid, no reader remains unmoved. --Deborah Abbott