In honour of World Disability Day, I would like to mention two Christmas books starring a young adult with autism (formally PDD-NOS), by author Greg Kincaid and their prequel. A Dog Named Christmas (Doubleday, 2008) focus on George McCray, a his wife Mary Ann, and their 20 year old son, Todd. Narrated by George, the story describes how the jovial animal expert Todd encourages his grumpy father to get over his 40 year reluctance to have a dog, after a traumatic experience during the Vietnam War. Their hometown of Crossing Trails, Kansas, is holding a foster-for-Christmas program. Todd drags his reluctant dad to the local Animal Services shelter, and selects a big black Lab he names Christmas. Through Christmas, Todd develops a real mature sense of responsibility. George also heals, allowing himself to let go of his past. (While George perhaps as a reflection of his age unfortunately uses the “R” word once to describe Todd on page 24, there really is no other language or objectionable content. (Even a mildly-perilous encounter with a cougar ends well for everyone, both wild and tame.) A Dog Named Christmas doesn’t just tell a heartwarming story. This book describes the lifesaving yet underfunded and understaffed job animal shelters play. The book focuses on a large black dog, because these dogs, like black cats, are often overlooked due to stereotypes. (This detail was unfortunately left out in the film adaptation, and forgotten in the prologue in the prequel book Christmas with Tucker.) Nevertheless, the film adaptation is quite good, serving as a nice companion to the book. Animal lovers will enjoy both the boo land it’s film counterpart.
Christmas with Tucker (Doubleday, 2010) follows George McCray as a 12 year old boy. Taking place in 1962, George must face not only his father’s death, but also a terrible blizzard that threatens his grandparent’s dairy farm. His sisters and mother head to Minnesota, leaving George to help his grandparents out on the farm. An Irish Setter named Tucker helps George through this difficult time. George finds healing through his mutual relationship with Tucker and his life on the dairy farm. Though the laws of nature occur sometimes, there is really nothing animal loving readers would object to. Animal lovers, old and young, will enjoy this book.
A Christmas Home (Doubleday, 2012) follows Todd and George four years after A Dog Named Christmas. The recession has hit, and many people are dropping animals off at the shelter. Trouble is, not many people are adopting or donating. To make matters worse, the local mayor wants to close down Animal Services! Todd is obviously upset, and is trying desparately to save the animals, the shelter, and his employment at the shelter. But Todd also has another goal. After training the dog pictured on the cover as a service dog for a co-worker, Todd has fallen for her. While his co-worker has a physical disability, she is neurotypical, a fact that doesn’t phase Todd. Through his experiences, Todd has really matured nicely. The focus on Todd is what makes A Christmas Home the strongest of all three books. Told in third person narrative, this book alternates between points of view. A Christmas Home describes everything, including the shelter in more depth. A Christmas Home ends in a way that works out for everyone. All three books are engaging stories for animal lovers of all ages. They make great Christmas presents that will be enjoyed year after year.