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The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Last updated Thursday, October 22, 2015

Author: Susan Wojciechowski
Illustrator: P.J. Lynch
Date of Publication: 2007
ISBN: 0763636290
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Dec. 2010

Synopsis: From Booklist Ages 4^-9. "Christmas is pish-posh," grumbles Jonathan Toomey, the best wood carver in the valley. He's a Scroogelike recluse; but he's a gentle grouch, it turns out, and he hides a sad secret. He's transformed, not by Dickensian ghosts, but by an eager seven-year-old boy and his widowed mother who ask him to make them a Christmas creche. The story verges on the sentimental, but it's told with feeling and lyricism (he "traveled till his tears stopped" ). Lynch's sweeping illustrations, in shades of wood grain, are both realistic and gloriously romantic, focusing on faces and hands at work before the fire and in the lamplight. In a beautiful, elemental scene, the angry wood carver stands on the threshold of his home, disturbed by the gentle widow and her son who want his help and will transform his life.

Note to readers:
•  NOTE: This story is too long to get through in the allotted time and some of the elements are repetitive and don’t move the plot along. We suggest you read the first 6 pages of text, then pause and let children know that Thomas and his mother come to watch Mr. Toomey several more times, with Thomas correcting Mr. Toomey’s work. Then begin again on the page where Mr. Toomey is helping Thomas carve the Robin (“With a piece of charcoal…”). This should allow you to speed things up enough to finish while keeping the students engaged.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  The story is called “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. Which character on the cover do you think is Jonathan Toomey?
•  What is a miracle? What do you think Jonathan’s Christmas miracle will be?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why do you think Mr. Toomey is gloomy? Are there times when you are sad? Do you prefer that people would ask you what’s wrong or leave you alone when you are sad?
•  Do you know what Thomas and his mother are asking Mr. Toomey to carve? (a nativity scene). Is this part of your holiday traditions, or have you ever been somewhere that has a nativity scene?
•  Do you think Mr. Toomey starts to like having the company of Thomas and his mother?
•  Why was it hard for Mr. Toomey to carve the mother and child? How did he overcome this? What do you do to help yourself when something is hard for you to do?
•  Why is Mr. Toomey happy in the end?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a paper plate angel (if you don’t have a paper plate, you can first cut a circle the size of a paper plate out of construction paper)
•  Draw and cut out the figures from the nativity scene. Color on both sides and you have Christmas ornaments!

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!