Praise for Christmasville ...
“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. The novel bloats a bit with unnecessary scenes, a tendency that sucks some of the suspense from the story. Dutton is also guilty of preaching to readers about acceptance and goodness, which, for a young audience, may not be a bad thing.
“...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 has 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 (Madeleine’s Story), 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 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
"At this time of year, with Epiphany only a few days away, a new novel entitled Christmasville provides an epiphany of sorts for its principal character, Mary Jane Higgins, a fourteen-year-old girl, who sees and hears things others do not. Mary Jane has come to realize that being fourteen is not a carrer, that it should be a passing point in chronological time. In her small town where things seem to her to change oddly every year, she is always fourteen. The directions of streets may alter and the new maps may show her where her favorite places have been relocated, but she is sure, suddenly, that everything is wrong about the life she knows. She begins to seek answers and a route out of town, but they both elude her until almost the end of her natural year, January 31."Mary Jane is special. She has been able to see past the borders of her town with eyes that clearly see that other places exist and that there may be a pathway to find them. As she exerts her energies and her intelligence in the direction of the answers, she finds a few sign posts, mostly within other people who harbor secrets, which can help her achieve her goal of getting away from Christmasville and discovering the other world that has been kept from her."Mary Jane's world encompasses only two months, December and January. Each January 31 - when she goes to sleep - it is with the certainty that when she wakes up, it will be December 1 again and her life will resume in an eternal winter. Discovering a maple tree with buds on it gives her a strong hint that her instincts and understandings of the 'other' world may be correct."Magical realism underscores this story of a girl whose long winter life is interrupted by this other reality. 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 inevitability."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. It's not an adventure in a mythical world where a child escapes through a wardrobe and confronts a lion and a witch. The people here inhabit their own town in their own world, just like ours, with major gaps in it. These are the commonplace folk, the ordinary. The escape here is out of a favorite movie, a venue as unexpectedly available as can be. The adventure is the 'wardrobe' essentially. The answer is almost frightening as Mary Jane comes face to face with the truth she has believed in for so very long."Epiphany is not an easy reality. In Christmasville by Michael Dutton, it is an inevitability."
Berkshire Bright Focus, J. Peter Bergman
"... the story was coming along nicely. However, something rather unexpected happened along the way: the book got really, really good! I can't say that it was a dark turn, but it took a sobering turn towards at least some of these citizens becoming "aware" of who and what they were. Sure, Mary Jane is the protagonist, but her story of discovery alone, without the development of other characters, such as her father, Willy and Otis, Mr. Gabriel, and of course, Mr. Bachmann and Mr. Lionel, would have gone nowhere quite quickly. 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
“I loved the book!”
“... Christmasville could easily be the next holiday classic. From children to seniors, this book is for everyone who has ever wondered about other worlds and the power of Christmas magic. If you’ve ever had a secret, or felt as though you didn’t fit in, you can certainly relate to the main character, Mary Jane Higgins. Her personal journeys, both emotional and literal, are the heart of this masterpiece. Supporting characters paint a common small town picture, complete with gossip and a ‘why would we ever want to leave here’ perspective. The citizens of Christmasville show us a world of innocence, and a reminder of holidays past.”
“Mary Jane Higgins is a very complete character. She has the heart and thoughts of a common fourteen-year, with the courage and wit of someone triple her age.”
“All of the characters are entirely believable. From the milkman to the mayor ... the coversations ... make them individuals. They could be a milkman or a mayor [from] anywhere, but they are special within Christmasville.”
“Conversation is very fluid. The writing is very fluid ...”
“Foreshadowing ... gives the reader an idea of what could happen and a desire to turn pages quickly.”
“It has very, very funny moments. I don’t know what books to compare it to ...”
Steven Manchester, Author, Pressed Pennies