Great Joy
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Great Joy

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  882 ratings  ·  154 reviews
In her first picture book, America’s beloved storyteller Kate DiCamillo reunites with Bagram Ibatoulline to offer readers an unforgettable holiday gift.
It is just before Christmas when an organ grinder and monkey appear on the street corner outside Frances’s apartment. Frances can see them from her window and, sometimes, when it’s quiet, she can hear their music. In fact,...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Candlewick Press
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Exquisite! I loved this book, so gentle and yet so powerful. Really captures the moment when a child realizes the injustice in the world, the lack of compassion--and how troubling that can be, especially when the grown-ups in life can't/won't fix it. And yet, she finds her own way to make some "great joy" in the end. The pictures are absolutely stunning and I really like the "old fashioned" element--I'm guessing '40s--in terms of the style of dress, hair-dos, cars, etc.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I read this gem of a story on Christmas Eve, the perfect time for such a beautiful tale. Little Frances feels sorry for the organ grinder and his monkey, who sleep out on the streets in the cold. She tries to get her mother to invite him in for supper, but her mother says no. Finally, as they're heading to church on Christmas Eve, she manages to invite the organ grinder to her church--and the rest of the story will bring the tears to your eyes. Bagram Ibatoulline's illustrations really make this...more
I discovered this book while I was shelving at work. I wish I had seen it during the holidays! However, I still took it home to read because I love Kate DiCamillo's work, and I loved the illustrations.

A lovely book about kindness, compassion, and giving. I may make this one of my Christmas traditions, to read it every year. :)
Melissa Izzo
This book is a story of compassion at Christmas Time. It is a sweet story of a little girl who is curious where a homeless man goes at night. She has such care and concern for the man because it is snowing and cold. Her mother wants nothing to do with the man, but that doesn't stop her. To be so young and want to reach out and help someone you have never met just tugs at my heart. This was Kate DiCamillo's first picture book and I want her to write more of them! I have read this book across grad...more
There is always much warmth and good spirit in Kate DiCamillo's books. It's a hopeful tale, and it addresses both directly and indirectly the spirit of Christmas which should really be an all year thing... caring for one another and particularly those in need. It also raises a lot of issues that could be discussed in a classroom setting or at home, or simply provide a subject for personal reflection and self examination.

The depiction of the mother was, I felt, particularly telling. She is not a...more
The illustrations for this book are simply astounding, I loved looking at them, remembering all the magical moments I had as a child when I didn't know how to read and would glean what I could from the pictures. The story was very sweet and made me smile. Definitely read if you are a fan of Kate DiCamillo.

*Taken from my book reviews blog:
Each time I finish reading a book by by Kate DiCamillo I say to myself, "This woman is a genius." And, this gentle picture book is DiCamillo at her best - tender, meaningful, and enlightening without even a hint of preachy judgment. Simply beautiful.
Overall I thought that this was a beautiful story that focused on an important aspect of the holidays. The artwork was beautiful- the paintings that were used through out really captured the essence of the story and what the meaning behind it was. I loved that the story focused on the importance of being a friend to all. I think that this would be a great book to be read to children to help them understand the important message that goes along with this story. I thought that the ending was somew...more
Kristen Herzog
Loved the story Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo! What a good message for kids to read about, it is important to think about others and to not judge but ask questions about their situations. The pictures were absolutely beautiful and I actually really liked how they went with the time frame of when the story takes place. The little girl is so worried about the organ grinder and his monkey but kids today wouldn't even know what an organ grinder is. Excellent way to put a teachable moment into the read...more
This book is probably my favorite picture book that I have read so far. It gave me chills. It is a wonderful story that illustrates the difference that one person can make. Not only that, but it shows the pure and simple heart of a child. The world would be a much better place if we were as undiscriminating as the little girl in this story. Great joy is felt when we feel love toward one another, especially at Christmas time. The thing that I liked most about the artwork is the use of color. It r...more
"In a dark time, doors will sometimes magically open and let us step inside to the warmth and light of a community."

—Kate DiCamillo

The big-scale paintings done by Bagram Ibatoulline that decorate this book are an absolute, no-doubt-about-it knockout. I don't know if I've ever seen such breathtaking artwork in a Christmas picture picture outside of The Polar Express, and these paintings add incredible dimension to Kate DiCamillo's soft-spoken, unpretentious narrative.
Great Joy is one of the b...more
Nicola Mansfield
Reason for Reading: I am a fan of the author.

This is a lovely Christmas picture book that, aside from a religious aspect, captures the true essence of Christmas. First of all, the illustrations are absolutely breathtaking paintings done in acrylic gouache. They place the story in the past sometime, but it is not until we see the photograph of the man in uniform do we place the story as being during, World War II. This book is worthy for its pictures alone. Yet, it has a text equally breathtaking...more
Timothy Darling
This story is lovely. The paintings are washes of candlelight across a canvas of a more defined life. The blurb on the back of the book says "luminous" and I cannot think of a better description. The illustrator believes in human beauty. Mother is graceful, children are cherubic, and the organ grinder's face is a map of character experience. Remembering my inclinations from youth, I'm sure that if I were a little boy reading this story, I would be in love with Frances' mother. I wonder a little...more
DiCamillo, K. (2007). Great Joy. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.
Gr. K-3. Outside her window each night, Frances sees an organ grinder with his monkey, playing in the cold and the snow. As she is on her way to perform in the Christmas pageant, Frances makes a decision: she invites the organ grinder and the monkey to watch the play. When the two show up just as Frances is about to deliver her line, she finds the true meaning of joy.
Curriculum: This would be a good book to talk about compassion an...more
Sarah Sammis
Harriet's got the holidays on her brain right now. She's been wanting to read stories about Christmas and Hanukkah. One of her first choices was Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo.

The book takes place during WWII in a large city. Frances and her mother live in an apartment while her father is away fighting in the war. Frances has a part in the upcoming Christmas pageant but she is preoccupied by the organ grinder who has come to street corner across from her bedroom window.

The story's about charity dur...more
Rubi Herrera
Another ok book.
The illustrations were beautiful, but I found the story kinda sad and pointless.
Yes, the girl (Frances) was kind, but nothing is really fixed for homeless musician and his monkey.
He just got a kind invitation to church :)
And there is no real satisfying ending (at least for me). It seems like the play ended and everyone ate and life went on like nothing happened. :/
Still, I wish more people would be like Frances instead of her mother. We need people like her in this world.
This story is about a little girl who knows something about the true meaning of Christmas. When she sees a man that is homeless, she invites him to her Christmas play so that she can share the joy of Christmas with him. It was a touching story and had nice large pictures that are easy for children to look at. There is also a little monkey in the story that I think children would like. This story can teach that the story of Christmas is for everybody and that it is always good to be kind.
The book Great Joy deals with good morals that children can learn from. The Christmas story is about sharing with others in need. I love how the author brings in this spiritual message, of the great joy Christmas brings when we share it with others.
It is just before Christmas when an organ grinder and monkey appear on the street corner outside Frances’s apartment. Frances can see them from her window and, sometimes, when it’s quiet, she can hear their music. In fact, Frances can’t stop thinking about them, especially after she sees the man and his monkey sleeping outside on the cold street at midnight. When the day of the Christmas pageant arrives, and it’s Frances’s turn to speak, everyone waits silently. But all Frances can think about i...more
Tessa Herrmann
This book has always been one of my favorites. It gives such a great message,the story always touches my heart.The pictures are so amazing. Each page has shows the story so well through the picture! I think kids would really like this book because it shows the true meaning of Christmas and how it is not all about gifts.
Beautiful and simple story, read it to students in Spanish, Alegria Plena. Good to pair up with The Lady in the Box (Ann McGovern) and Mr. Bow Tie (Karen Barbour).
This is a wonderful newer picture book for Christmas sharing with a young person of your choice. Either the text or pictures could stand on their own, but together they make one of the best of this genre. The theme is the inclusion of the marginalized, a very appropriate one for Christmas and one that I found in DiCamillo's other book I've read, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. The book is set during World War II, as one can tell from the pictures (and, truly, when did you last see an or...more
Amy Carr
Every year I give my family a new Christmas book on December 1st to add to our collection and I have to admit I was excited about this Christmas book by Kate DiCamillo. But oh, how I wish I'd taken the time to do more than look at the pictures. It had potential and then, just like that, it turned over and fell flat. Started off really interesting and then was suddenly over and we all looked at each other with these puzzled expressions and all I could say was, "OK." The pictures are interesting a...more
This is a beautiful (and I mean truly beautiful!), gorgeously illustrated children's christmas story. The story is simple with minimal words, which is absolutely perfect because the illustrations are magical.
May 20, 2008 Becky rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Christmas fans
I checked this out because I like both the author and the illustrator. I think DiCamillo's writing is better suited to chapter-book length -- I liked The Tale of Despereaux far better -- but this is a sweet Christmas story with nice detail. The pictures are softly shaded, realistic, and 1940's-esque, sort of like Chris Van Allsburg meets Norman Rockwell. The sense of lighting is lovely, since much of the book takes place at night. The ending felt rather abrupt, but the final two-page spread is w...more
I liked this story but felt it didn't end right. I know it is a short children's book, however, I think it should have said what happened the the organ player and his monkey.
It feels like Christmas the moment you pick up Kate DiCamillo's Great Joy. The metallic gold endpapers let you know this book is something special. This is the story of Frances who really understands the meaning of Christmas. The lovely illustrations take you right into 1940s. As you see the world through Frances' eyes, you'll want to decide what you can do to bring "great joy" to others at Christmas time. This story will remind you of the power of one. One person (even a child) can make a diffe...more
Taylor Bennett
I really enjoyed this book. I liked how it captured the moment when the little girl realizes the injustice and lack of compassion there is in the world and she finds her own way to give the organ player some joy when no one else will. I enjoyed the illustrations as well. I would use this in my class to take about compassion for others and helping each other. Could also talk about what the children think joy means and how they could share joy around the Christmas time.
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Kate DiCamillo, the newly named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015, says about stories, “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another.” Born in Philadelphia, the author lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.

Kate DiCamillo's own journey is something of a dream come true. After...more
More about Kate DiCamillo...
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