Lisa Doucet Reviews Shiny and New

Robert Chafe convincingly depicts awkward interactions between newcomers and hosts

Shiny and New
Robert Chafe, illustrated by Grant Boland
Breakwater Books
(Ages6+)

AbigailMaureen Margaret-Rose Davis loves the yearly class Christmas concert. It is her absolute favourite part of Christmas! But this year, everything has changed.For one thing, her beloved Nan won’t be there. Also, without warning or explanation, Mrs. Stevens announces that the concert will be held in the stinky school gym instead of at the church, where it has always been. And for the first time ever, Abigail doesn’t have a solo. 

But before she can express her outrage to her mother, she makes another unhappy discovery: her mother is putting away their Christmas tree and all their decorations because of the new family in town, who are coming for dinner.Abigail Maureen Margaret-Rose Davis is indignant. Until Pops helps her, and all the assembled dinner guests, discover the real meaning of Christmas.

Set in outport Newfoundland, this timeless and warm-hearted tale will speak to readers everywhere. Abigail’s voice is pitch perfect and the author brilliantly captures the perspective of a self-righteous eight year old who is feeling rattled by the break in familiar and cherished routines. Chafe also convincingly depicts the experience of well-meaning individuals anxiously trying to make newcomers feel welcome and of newcomers feeling awkward and out of place. 

Most importantly, with simplicity and great sensitivity, he captures the experience of two human beings finding a connection through a shared experience of loss.

This story is spare and sentimental in the best possible way, tender, and true. It is a quietly powerful reflection on loss and love, on letting go and opening up to new ways of seeing those around us. It is a story for all ages and all times, but especially for now.

(Note: the final version will be illustrated but the illustrations were unavailable for review.)

Written By

Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.

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