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Great Joy

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  1,348 Ratings  ·  201 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,
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Candlewick Press
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Dec 09, 2008 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 28, 2011 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
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.
Jun 30, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
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:
Jan 15, 2016 Tricia rated it it was amazing
I really liked it when I read it to myself. But when I read it to my family, I sobbed like a baby.
Linda Lipko
The combination of a Christmas story of homelessness, a little girl who is concerned, and the inclusion and safety of a church, lends to an incredible tale, rich in meaning and significance at this time of year. With the added lush, stunningly beautiful, incredible illustrations of Bagram Ibatoulline, of the 102 children's illustrated books I've read thus far, this is my favorite of 2014.

When a little girl notices a lonely organ grinder and his monkey standing on the street corner during a very
Mar 15, 2015 Jaleesa rated it liked it
This book is about a girl named Frances and the Christmas pageant she is in. While getting ready for the pageant she notices an organ grinder on the street corner and his pet monkey. She asks her mother about where he goes at night and her mother glosses over the subject. Frances goes on to invite him to her pageant and when he walks in the door she feels right saying her lines. I feel like this book glosses over the idea of homelessness. It doesn’t spend any time discussing how he became ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Judy rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 26, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: february
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 ...more
Melissa Izzo
May 22, 2011 Melissa Izzo rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Kristen Herzog
Apr 18, 2014 Kristen Herzog rated it it was amazing
Shelves: homeless
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 ...more
Apr 01, 2014 Rubi rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 12, 2016 Relyn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teachers, parents, kids
Recommended to Relyn by: Kate DiCamillo
This book is remarkable! The art is incredible and the message, hopeful. I tear up each time I read it.

Lesson Connections
One of the Christmas gifts I give my students each year is an extra read aloud every day from the weeks after Thanksgiving till Christmas break. I gather lots of Christmas story books and read one a day. It makes us all happy and the season more celebratory.
Feb 28, 2014 Kellie rated it really liked it
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. :)
Dec 12, 2015 Hannah rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. The illustrations were lovely, and the story was nice, but nothing too special. Kate DiCamillo can do and has done so much better.
Why do all DiCamillo's books make me tear-up in public???
Meredith Estes
Oct 24, 2016 Meredith Estes rated it it was amazing
I love Kate DiCamillo. This picture book was so lovely telling the story of a little girl curious about where an organ grinder and his monkey sleep at night in the cold. The realistic, impressionist illustrations help to convey the reality of the situation to young readers. My girls all got the lesson and talked about similarities. A sweet way to teach empathy. And, the last page was the epitome of great joy and idealism. So sweet.
Dec 07, 2016 Jamie rated it really liked it
This was a sweet, gentle story with exquisite illustrations. It feels like the story could have gone further, but there is something to be said for the simpleness of it. Could lead to some good conversation afterwards.
Leah Jay
Oct 21, 2016 Leah Jay rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful, sweet story! I had so much fun reading it aloud to my 3 year old sister.
Another great addition to my Kate DiCamillo collection.
Until the next book,
Leah Jay
Heidi Mcjunkin
Dec 04, 2016 Heidi Mcjunkin rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story about the spirit of Christmas written by a wonderful author.
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
Nicola Mansfield
Oct 08, 2010 Nicola Mansfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 25, 2009 Josiah rated it it was ok
"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
Samantha Westall
Sep 13, 2016 Samantha Westall rated it liked it
Cute story about a little girl fascinated by a man and monkey playing music on the corner by her house...I liked it but the plot seemed unfinished to me.
Jun 28, 2012 Liza rated it really liked it
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
Jan 26, 2016 Kathryn rated it really liked it
This book is about a little girl who looks out her window and notices a man and his monkey. She watches them through the day as they stand on the corner of the sidewalk across from her apartment. She becomes curious of where they go at night. She has a sincere and innocent curiosity about the man and his monkey, but her mother knows that it is someone who the girl should not be concerned for, because he was a stranger. I won't tell he ending, but it was lovely. It shows that we should care about ...more
Sarah Sammis
Sep 30, 2010 Sarah Sammis rated it liked it
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
Frances is an angel in the church’s Christmas play with a very important line to say. The days leading up to the play, she sees an older man with a monkey on the street corner. When Frances soon discovers that they are homeless, she tries to get her Mom to invite them to dinner. However, her Mom declines to allow strangers to enter her home, which leads Frances to invite him to her church play.

In this day and age, it seems numerous adults are too busy to help, but this sweet child knows the impo
Oct 05, 2013 Christy rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Feb 28, 2014 Kelsi rated it really liked it
Shelves: february
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 ...more
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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 about Kate DiCamillo...

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