Sunday, 18 December 2016

Apple Paperback Review: Merry Christmas, Miss McConnell! by Colleen O'Shaughnessy McKenna

On select Sundays I will be reviewing some of the old Apple Paperback titles from my childhood. These titles were published, or republished by Scholastic during the 1980s & 1990s and were written and set in the United States. In Australia, these books were typically only available from libraries or could be ordered through catalogues that were distributed through primary schools. Most of these titles are now long out of print or have been updated and republished for later generations ...

I remember reading Merry Christmas, Miss McConnell! when I was in year six at primary school and being quite taken with the story about three kids who have a lot of trouble relating to their strict new teacher. It is Christmas time and the beloved fifth grade class teacher, Mrs Jackson, has gone on maternity leave. Mrs Jackson is replaced by the strict Miss McConnell who orders the kids about by blowing a whistle and never seems to let them have any fun. It's a blow to the main character, Meg, who is already experiencing problems at home--her dad has injured his back and cannot work, and her mother is working two low paid jobs and has a lot of concerns about money. It is looking like this is going to be the worst Christmas ever. And then, after a prank goes wrong Miss McConnell cancels the concert that Meg and her friends were going to perform in at the local mall. But Miss McConnell has a secret, and one that could perhaps lead Meg and the others to discover the real meaning of Christmas ...

I strongly suspect that the author of this one has seen A Charlie Brown Christmas as there are a couple of parallels between the book and the beloved Christmas special, and there is even a reference to Charlie Brown's scrawny Christmas tree. Unlike most of the Apple Paperbacks, this one is set inside a Catholic school, which made for interesting reading. The story does not have a great deal of depth and I think that one of the two big reveals about Miss McConnell (the reason behind her using a whistle,) could have been fleshed out more. That said, this one proved itself to be a fun and heartwarming Christmas tale and one that still stands up well today. 

About the author: Colleen O'Shaughnessy McKenna was the author of many Apple Paperbacks including the Murphys series. She also penned two Dr Quinn Medicine Woman tie-in books.