No one knows where the trains go or what lies beyond the mountains and the forests. They've never seen grass or walnut trees, but they do discover how tomatoes are named. And roses and violets and orchids. There aren't any summer vacations. No spring showers. And as for leaves rusting in the autumn rain?
"What does 'autumn' mean?" asks Sperry. "I'm not familiar with that word."
And so begins the tale of Christmasville
In a town nestled between magic and miracle, dream and deja vu, Mary Jane Higgins embarks on a series of perilous journeys, determined to resolve the riddle of Christmasville. Although it's forbidden, she crosses the train tracks, approaches the "bottomless abyss," travels through a wilderness that "operates according to a different set of rules." Along the way she encounters a mysterious donkey, a shepherd boy with his lamb and three riders on...on camels?
"...but camels only exist in myths and fairy tales, like unicorns and giraffes, dragons and elephants."
On the changing checkerboard of Christmasville, buildings and homes are arranged annually according to a new "plan" of things. The calendar consists of only two pages: December and January. But no one gets any older. And the worst of ailments is poison ivy, and color blindness, and signs of that most harrowing of afflictions: partial baldness.
It's a town perennially covered in new fallen snow, perpetually decorated in yuletide trimmings. It's a town that in many ways is typical, or evocative - a town in which we we might dream of living - but one which operates according to slightly skewed phenomena: time, space and memory. And no one - save one - suspects that something is awry.
Prologue: She Bites into a Cookie, Swallows a Mouthful of Milk and Begins
- Chapter 1: Christmasville
- Chapter 2: A Snowman from China
- Chapter 3: Faith
- Chapter 4: The Perennial Shade of Trees
- Chapter 5: A Game of Checkers
- Chapter 6: The Eve of St. Nick
- Chapter 7: First Night
- Chapter 8: Maiden Journey
- Chapter 9: Thirty-Two Degrees of Illumination
- Chapter 10: What the Iceman Said
- Chapter 11: The House at the End of the World
- Chapter 12: Elastic Plastic
Epilogue: A Remarkable Discovery
"In Christmasville tomatoes have only recently come into existence, the changing colors of autumn are unheard of, and the only person who notices or cares is fourteen-year-old protagonist Mary Jane Higgins. Mary Jane begins the book by examining a map, studying the placement of buildings, which for her change location every two months. Those two months, December and January, constitute a year in Christmasville, and on January 31st, all is forgotten, the clock wound back and Christmas begins again with the protagonist fourteen years old, as she has been for as long as she can remember...
"...Dutton's premiere novel, sets Mary Jane on a series of journeys to discover the truth about her town...Between the journeys, Dutton creates little bits of mythos, cleverly explaining how tomatoes are named, or roses. Readers get a heavy dose of Christmas traditions and small town socializing with all of the expected unique citizens...
"...Young adults will enjoy the mystery of Christmasville and the spunk and smarts of Mary Jane. The details of school, sledding and loose-lipped best friends will appeal to those readers much like the sassy characters of Meg Cabot's supernatural novels. The language of the book is appropriate as well, though Mary Jane and her author occasionally find themselves carried away with the joy of simile. Still, curiosity keeps the book moving as readers strive to understand the mysterious donkey, the fortuneteller's predictions and the reason no one in Christmasville ever heard of New York City or John F. Kennedy...
"...Audiences may fall in love with Mary Jane and eagerly await the companion novel, Finding Christmasville, which will perhaps further unwind the mysteries of the town, Until then, in this age of Harry Potter and Chris Von Allsburg, the magical realism of the novel should prove very appealing to readers, both young and old."
ForeWord Magazine, Clarion Review
"...[the] play on the Brigadoon 'miracle' is fresh and the characters are charming in a Mayberry sort of way that make you wonder about their past, or if they really have one...This book and next year's parallel story [Finding Christmasville] will be treasures on any bookshelf. Hopefully they will find their way to yours."
Beth Ellen McKenzie, MyShelf.com
"Christmasville tells a unique story of how paradise is not always what it seems."
MidWest Book Review (posted with five-star review on Amazon.com)
"...clever, thoughtful, well written..."
Stanley J. Kozaczka, The Lion's Roar
"...Beautifully told, the tale unfolds slowly as Mary Jane uncovers one clue after another and tries three times to make her escape into an uncertain future. Injury, disgrace, betrayal by a close friend - nothing stops her from her inevitablity.
"Dutton writes simply so that children can enjoy the story, but with such complexity and deep understanding that adults will find this story as intriguing as their children. He creates characters with such delicious human traits that they emerge completely recognizable and vividly real. They are our neighbors and the merchants whom we all deal with daily, and yet they have a special quality we don't necessarily find in our real lives. These people vividly enliven the book.
"Treat yourself to a book unlike any other."
J. Peter Bergman, Berkshire Bright Focus
"...the story was coming along nicely. However, something rather unexpected appened along the way: the book got really, really good!
"...Mary Jane's boldness, and her unwavering desire to learn about what lies outside the borders of Christmasville keeps the story exciting and leaves the reader wanting more. The end of the book, which I don't want to give away to those who haven't read it yet, took me by surprise. I had the concept of what was going to happen all along, but the details of what actually did happen were quite unexpected. I can't wait for Michael Dutton's sequel, Finding Christmasville!"
Joe Kutza, Founder and former President of the Plasticville Collector's Association