Summary from publisher:
Eleven-year-old Sam Brattle is already having the worst Christmas ever – his dad’s bakery is going bankrupt and his mom is spending the holidays with her new family. To make things worse, Nickel Bay Nick, the anonymous Good Samaritan who leaves hundred-dollar bills around Nickel Bay at Christmastime, is a no-show, so this year the rest of the town is as miserable as Sam. When he stumbles upon the secret identity of this mysterious do-gooder, Sam is stunned to learn that he might now be his town’s only hope. But before he can rescue Nickel Bay, Sam has to learn the skills of a spy and unravel some even darker secrets that will change his life forever.
I can’t resist a good holiday story, but often they are hokey or a little too emotional. This middle-grade book manages to be a touching holiday story and a funny, exciting read at the same time!
I loved Sam, but more importantly, I think middle grade readers of all ages will love him. He is a really complex character. He and his dad fight all the time, he has had run-ins with the law, and he is just a troublemaker. But the reader gets to see that Sam has trouble relating to other kids, doesn’t have much confidence, and feels like his dad doesn’t think he is good enough. He goes through a transformation, but it is pretty quick to see that there wasn’t actually much that needed to be transformed.
It isn’t just a message book because there is spying, mystery, and a lot of laughs. It is the kind of book that can appeal to any readers because it has a little bit of everything in it. The adult characters are fantastic and are not just stereotypes of adults.
If you are looking for a holiday book for your middle grade reader, this is the one for you. I suggest you get another one for you. Just have the tissues nearby. There are a few times you will be wiping away a couple tears.