Wild Winter: Christmas, Clues, and Crooks
by C. A. Hartnell
Hawk Prints Publishing

"Who’s stealing our stuff? Can we keep our fundraising money safe if we’re able to make some this weekend at our first bake sale?"

Wintertime is taking over El Monte, California, and with Christmas not far behind, Pete and Carol Ann are trying to think of ways to help those who might be less fortunate than they are. They come up with an idea to host a Christmas pageant with all the kids in their class and raise money for the Community Chest by having bake sales and selling tickets to the pageant. Everyone is eager to chip in, and even Mary Jane takes a role, putting her bossy demeanor to good use as the pageant director. Once again, however, robberies are beginning to take place, as the money from both the bake sales and the pageant tickets are starting to go missing. Pete suspects it must be someone helping with the events, while Carol Ann hopes it is not one of their friends.

The pageant isn’t taking up all the kids’ time, however. They spend many days decorating their homes for the holidays and also visiting the Christmas events around their neighborhood. Pete and Carol Ann’s families take them shopping for the perfect Christmas tree, visiting the giant lighted displays of Christmas Tree Lane and the holiday theme park Santa’s Village. With a full plate, Carol Ann’s notebook proves useful again with its inspirational scripture and collection of clues about the missing money. Can she put together a cool pageant for the whole neighborhood while also solving the mystery before Christmas so that there will be donations to give to the Community Chest?

This fourth installment of The 1950s Adventures of Pete and Carol Ann concludes the series as 1955 comes to a close; but rather than wrap up all the previous books into one conclusion, it gives the two children one more mystery to resolve full of suspects and even danger. Rather than spanning the entire winter, since the series takes place only in 1955, Wild Winter focuses primarily on Christmas, giving the whole book a festive, nostalgic feeling that will resonate with readers of any age—whether they lived through the 1950s or not. The scenes and details are so vivid and complete that everything forms a complete picture in the reader’s mind, from the decorations to the behaviors and manners of each of the characters.

Like the other books in the series, this one concludes with a collection of bonus features including a photo album, a glossary of 1950s slang, cookie recipes, word games, and a behind-the-scenes look at how the book’s cover was created. There’s even an extra chapter that gives some closure to the cast at Hawk’s New Year’s party as they bid farewell to 1955. This story offers up plenty more of what this series is built upon, giving readers what they love: a snapshot of the era accurately depicted in language and description plus a timeless story of two friends who stick by each other no matter what. Though it ends the story of Pete and Carol Ann, it proves to be one of the strongest entries in this series and is guaranteed to leave its audience with a smile on their faces.

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