Benji’s family can’t afford gifts this Christmas, but a magical Christmas Eve shows him that he can still bring his family joy.
Benji’s Christmas needs some magic. There isn’t enough money for a tree or a turkey. Benji wishes he could buy his family gifts to make them happy, but instead he watches the shoppers and passes by the shops feeling helpless. But as he turns to go home on Christmas Eve, he bumps into a polar bear, who is rushing to work. Benji watches the polar bear and is invited into a dazzling Magical Christmas Store by penguin doormen. The sights and sounds inside the magical store amaze Benji, who finds intangible gifts that would delight his family: raucous noise for his rambunctious sister, a fancy imaginary hat for his grandmother, and a jar of joy for his dad. He worries that he can’t afford to buy the gifts, but the currency requested are a song and a story. Benji heads home happy with his gifts, but on Christmas morning, he worries that they are “terrible.” He gives them anyway, and his family feels happy and loved. The topic of limited resources during the holiday season is an important and refreshing one. This layered story can stand up to repeated readings with its exceptional creativity and heart. Boisterous illustrations present Benji and his family as Asian; the workers in the store are all animals.
A special treat for the imagination. (Picture book. 4-9) — Kirkus Reviews
With his family struggling financially, Benji, a bespectacled child in a red hat, wishes he could bring them joy with spectacular holiday presents. On Christmas Eve, his wish is granted: a “ginormous” polar bear ushers Benji into a gilded, glamorous emporium, illustrated in lush digital spreads by Giang, where an ebullient cast of animal clerks helps him shop. Benji scores a funny-sounding trumpet for his younger sister, a fabulous imaginary hat for his grandmother, and a jar for his father that smells like “family movie night on the couch, like walks together in the fall, like a hug from the person you love most”—all for the cost of a silly song and “one exceptional story.” Benji and the rest of his cued-Asian family share a festive dinner before enjoying a particularly happy Christmas morning in this heartwarming narrative by Powell-Tuck, which emphasizes imagination and love over expense. Ages 3–7. — Publishers Weekly