From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6–In this tale of Christmas miracles, Snicket chronicles the adventures of an anthropomorphic lump of coal with a dream. The small, flammable hero meets his share of naysayers and phonies on his quest to be an artist. He eventually becomes despondent and settles for something that is better than nothing. It is when he least expects his miracle that it occurs, enabling him to fulfill his destiny. Snicket's trademark arch humor delivers plenty of laugh-out-loud moments en route to the happy ending. Longtime collaborator Helquist brings the characters to life with simplicity and charm. The lump of coal is sufficiently lumpy and elegantly dressed. Those who would stand in his way are ridiculed with appropriately subtle visual barbs. The entire saga is presented in a seven-inch-square volume that is thought-provoking and captivating, and sure to be in demand.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library
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Just in time for the full-on onslaught of holiday sentimentality, Lemony Snicket comes to the rescue, offering up an acerbic miniature picture book that hides a droll sweetness beneath a biting sardonic wit. It’s December again, and our hero, a lump of coal with an identity crisis (inexplicably wearing a tuxedo) is off in search of a miracle that will give meaning to his life. He tries an art gallery; perhaps he could smudge himself across a canvas masterpiece. No go. He tries a Korean barbecue; maybe he can fuel the fire that roasts eggplant and warms holiday hearts. Nope. At last, a drug-store Santa claims him as the perfect addition to his disobedient stepson’s stocking, and the coal lump finds his place in the world. The tongue-in-cheek narrative receives able support from Helquist’s full-color illustrations, which nicely extend the humor. This Snicket title is extra-wry, but the bracing tone cuts through the honeyed happy ending for a Christmas cocktail that’s just right. Grades 1-3. --Thom Barthelmess