The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Published by Harper Collins
This is the story of a lump of coal with a dream. “Like many people who dress in black, the lump of coal was interested in becoming an artist.” He dreamed of a miracle “that one day it would get to draw rough, black lines on canvas or, more likely, on a breast of chicken or salmon filet by participating in a barbeque.” The first miracle? The lump of coal comes to life and rolls out of a bag of coals left out in a backyard. Second miracle? He rolls all the way to an art gallery. Unfortunately when he walks into the gallery, he's met by a very pretentious owner who tries to crush his dreams of being an artist. Third miracle? He finds a Korean barbeque restaurant but the owner -who's definitely not Korean and is using non-Korean spices (oregano)- kicks him out because she would only use one-hundred percent Korean coals.
He then runs into Santa, well, not really. "I'm not really Santa Claus. I'm an employee of the drugstore, dressed up and giving out coupons." The lump of coal asks Santa for help, "Do you have any use for me?" "I'm an artist at heart, but I'm very helpful when cooking meat." Santa has a different plan: his stepson has been disobedient this year, and he deserves to get a lump of coal instead or a gift for Christmas. Here's were the miracles start to work for the lump of coal. Jasper, the boy, is thrilled to find him in his stocking, "I've been wanting to create some abstract art featuring rough, black lines!" Jasper and the lump of coal become famous artists, travel to Korea, and end up buying the Korean barbeque restaurant.
I loved The Lump of Coal. It's funny, it has great vocabulary, it's quirky, and it actually has a beautiful message at the end. There are many miracles in life, says Snicket, like finding true friends and spending your time doing whatever you like to do. And the holiday, is the perfect time "to think about the miracles in your own life, and to be grateful for them." The illustrations by Helquist are wonderful as well. It makes you wish the format of the book was larger to truly enjoy them. Great find!