It’s 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he’ll never forget.
LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone’s turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.
Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina’s word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone’s business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from Québec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants, Wishin’ and Hopin’ barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.
From the Funicello family’s bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off), Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we’ve been—and how far we’ve come.
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My thoughts: Wishin’ and Hopin’ is an amusing novel about Felix Funicello (Annette is his third cousin) and his 5th grade year at St. Aloysius Gonzaga.
I really enjoyed reading about Felix and his classmates, teachers, and family. I went to Catholic elementary school (in the 1960s) and could relate to much of the story. Wally Lamb infused humor throughout the book. That said, there were a few times when I really felt sympathy for a couple of Felix’s classmates. The class is guided through the first semester by a memorable substitute teacher. Lamb’s story culminates in a hilarious Christmas program.
I recommend placing Wishin’ and Hopin’ on your reading list this season.
Review copy from HarperCollins