My Christmas Attic is a feel-good, plot- and character-driven short novel that should appeal to audiences nostalgic for a time in our history when there was a greater sense of shared national purpose. It was written specifically for dyslexic children who often feel ostracized at school because of their struggles to read, but its appeal can be shared by children (and adults) of all ages.
The story opens on December 28, 2003, as Jake Jennings returns to his boyhood home one last time before the new owners move in. As he walks through the living room, he reminisces about the many memories the house evokes. Finally, he walks upstairs to the attic, where he alludes to the fact that he was very different than other children.
The story flashes back to 1952 and we learn that Jake lives in the small town of Julian, California. He is ostracized from the other kids at school, many of whom think he is stupid because he reads so poorly and is always daydreaming about Buck Rogers in Outer Space, his favorite radio show. His father is also missing in action in the Korean War, and his mother Cora often sits in the living room at night while she plays the music she once shared with her husband.
Jake’s mother eventually schedules an appointment with Dr. Elway, a reading specialist who tells them that Jake is dyslexic. However, Dr. Elway explains that some people refer to it as “the gift of dyslexia,” because so many famous people (Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and others) were also dyslexic. In spite of Dr. Elway’s pep talk, Jake continues to struggle. He escapes into the attic and creates a forever Christmas world. One of the Christmas ornaments he unpacks is a family heirloom nicknamed “Old Ebenezer,” who holds a scroll with indecipherable writing on it. One night, when Jake falls asleep in the attic, he dreams that “the gift of dyslexia” made it possible for him to read the scroll. Old Ebenezer, a playful and mischievous sprite who bears a resemblance to Dr. Elway, suddenly appears and takes Jake on a journey to the places where Christmas is forever. They visit a medical ward with a permanent Christmas tree to cheer up seriously ill children. They visit an orphanage where the kindly director keeps a replica of Santa Claus and his reindeer all year so difficult to adopt children will have something to brighten up their lives. Finally, they arrive at a small, dark prison cell, where Jake is convinced he sees his father huddled on a wooden cot.
When he awakens, Jake tries to convince his mother that what he saw was real, but she is convinced he had nothing more than a muddled dream. Nonetheless, she pressures the authorities to learn what happened to her husband. Weeks later, there is a knock on the door. When Jake opens it, his father is standing there. Richard Jennings tells his wife and son how he almost gave up all hope, except for something very strange that happened in his prison cell one night—something that involved Jake and gave him a renewed desire to live.
The story then returns to the attic in the year 2003, where the older Jake Jennings is still reminiscing about his early childhood struggles with dyslexia. Before leaving, he remembers the new family has a special needs girl, and he places Old Ebenezer on a window sill. After he leaves, there is an air of expectancy, as though the attic is waiting for another child to walk through the door to build a new forever Christmas world.
As Jake exists from his former family home, we see that his car has the logo with a picture of Old Ebenezer and the inscription, “FOREVER CHRISTMAS, SCHOOLS FOR SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN, INC.” Only then do readers realize that Jake has turned his childhood struggles with dyslexia into an adult career to help other children who are similarly challenged by “the gift of dyslexia.”
Page Count: 129
Trim Size: 5 x 8
Publish Date: December 5, 2018
Imprint: Brown Posey
FICTION / Literary
FICTION / Coming of Age
FICTION / Holidays