If you ever saw the Hallmark movie A Dog Called Christmas (or read the book by the same title), you will be familiar with the special black lab Christmas and his family the McCrays. As the sequel A Christmas Home opens, the holiday season again approaches; and Todd, now a few years older, has found success working at the same animal shelter where Christmas had lived. Both his parents, George and Mary Ann, are pleased that their son has found a life of semi-independence despite his his disabilities, so both worry when the community receives the unexpected news that the city and county have withdrawn all financial support to the shelter. The property must be vacated by January 1. Not only will Todd and the shelter director be without employment, they must hurry over the next weeks to find homes for the fifty-some animals currently under their care. Factory closings and foreclosures are common place in this Kansas area and each month it is harder to find new homes for the four legged victims of a "down economy."
I am sure you realize this is a "feel good" book for the holidays. Too often those stories sink into sappiness or pit the "good side" (main character and family) against the "bad side"(the mayor, boss, or land developer). Author Kincaid did not fall into that trap, although I really doubt that a real shelter would be closed without more adequate notice. This sequel to the popular first story offers lessons that go beyond the surface, "Love a dog" theme. First, you will learn quite a bit about service dogs as Todd, with help from a service training center in Kansas, has trained a shelter dog to help his dear friend Laura, but perhaps the greatest lesson is on not judging people by their apparent weaknesses without recognizing their strengths. Todd's disability is a mental slowness that is not clearly defined in the story, but it is obvious that his shelter job is one within his abilities and one that he loves. Most around him think this is all he could handle, not realizing the real talent he has. Todd himself is unsure of the future, but he does not want to fall back into the "safety net" of living with his parents and doing nothing. For a while, his future seems as bleak as the dogs' But all those hard learned lessons of self-sufficiency will pay off for the determined young Kansas man.
Greg Kincaid is a practicing lawyer in Kansas whose passions include improving the lives of animals (dogs, especially) and promoting literacy. His website biography points out that he and his sister have always been voracious readers, mainly because his mother read to them daily. Aside from his career as a corporate lawyer, Greg also found time to represent those in need in rural Kansas, often children in trouble. He observed, whether visiting them in their homes, shelters, or jails, one thing seemed to be consistently missing -- books. That began a 20 year plus campaign to promote literacy.
That alone makes him a librarian's hero -- that he can write wholesome stories is an added bonus!
My husband and I spent the last few days at our cabin in Northern Wisconsin. While there, I listened to an audio version of this book as I walked, ran errands, and worked on some Christmas sewing. The story was as warm as the woodstove fire that heated the cabin. Maybe Hallmark will see another movie in this family story.