by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Christmas is three weeks away and a mysterious \”Santa\” has been mailing presents to sixth grader Sophie Washington. Her friends guess that the secret Kris Kringle could be either Nathan Jones or Toby Johnson, two boys in Sophie\’s class who have liked her in the past, but she\’s not sure. Sophie uncovers clues to find her secret Santa and the final reveal is bigger than any package she\’s opened on Christmas morning. It\’s a holiday surprise she\’ll never forget!

“Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg!”

“Be quiet, Cole!” I put my hands over my ears to muffle my brother’s out-of-tune singing and focus back on my laptop to finish my English essay. It’s less than three weeks until winter break and my teachers have been piling on the assignments to make sure we get our end of semester grades in.

There sure is a big change between fifth and sixth grade, workwise, at Xavier Academy, the private school my brother and I go to. Between all the essays and projects and studying for final exams, I feel I can barely take time to pat my dog, Bertram, when I get home; whereas, my eight-year-old brother Cole acts like he’s already on vacation.

Since we got home from school an hour ago, he’s been living it up, shooting hoops in the driveway, eating a snack and now playing on the handheld video game player that my mother would make him put up if she were downstairs with us. I ought to tell on him now…

Ding Dong!

The doorbell interrupts my thoughts.

“Can you get it, Sophie?” Mom yells from upstairs. “I’m putting some clothes in the closet.”

I would ask her why she wants me to answer the door, and not Cole, but I already know the answer: “Because you’re the oldest.”

Of course, that logic doesn’t hold when it comes to who gets the first dessert or who doesn’t have to do the dishes at night. As the baby of the family and favored child, my little brother has got it made.

I trudge to the front door in time to see the mail carrier heading back to his truck. He’s left a medium-sized box on the porch. Wonder what it is?

My mother sometimes has holiday packages delivered to the house, but Cole and I haven’t made our Christmas lists yet, so I doubt it’s anything for us. I open the door, pick the package up, and check out the label. It’s got my name on it in bright, red ink, “Sophie Washington.”

Who could this be from?

I never get any mail, except for birthday gifts my Granny Washington sends to our house in Houston from Corpus Christi when she can’t be here, and I don’t remember my parents ordering anything for us online. Granny is driving up to see us tomorrow, so I doubt she would mail presents here when she could just bring them with her.

“Mom, I got a package!” I call out.

“What is it?” Cole bounds from the family room to stare at the box as I set it on the kitchen counter.

“Back off, Cole, it’s mine,” I move him to the side with my hip and take a closer look at the delivery. The box is wrapped in brown paper, and there is no return address. It looks difficult to open with my fingers, so I pull a butter knife out of a drawer in the kitchen and slit through the tape on the side. A sweet, sugary scent fills the air.

“Cool!” exclaims Cole in appreciation as the brown wrapping slides off to reveal a box filled with packages of licorice, gummy bears, gum, and red and green M&Ms. I notice a typed note underneath.

Dear Sophie,
Hope your day is super sweet! Your
Secret Santa

~Follow the rest of the tour

This is my favorite Sophie Washington book yet. Our fearless sixth-grader is back for a tale of holiday fun. This time, she’s receiving holiday packages from an unnamed sender. Is it one of the boys at school? Or is something else up?

Sorry, I’m not telling. Guess it’s a secret…Santa.

Seriously, though, this book is adorable. I loved seeing Sophie and her family around the holidays. Similarly, watching Sophie gear up for winter break with her friends was so cute. This book offered a glimpse into different cultures’ Christmas traditions, which was neat, too.

Something that really stuck out for me with this book was seeing Sophie truly be a big sister to her brother. They still fought, as siblings will, but when her brother got into a rough spot, Sophie was there to help make things better. I felt like a proud parent watching her.

I promised I wouldn’t spoil the secret, but the resolution of this story just warmed my frozen little heart. I was surprised in the best way. This book gets to the heart of what the holidays are all about, and I recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone wanting a beautiful story this holiday season.

Tonya Duncan Ellis is the author of the award winning, Readers\’ Favorite \”Five Star\” rated, Sophie Washington children\’s books series, geared toward readers ages 8 to 12, and is a member of the Society of Children\’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She has received awards for literary excellence, worked as a journalist and freelance magazine writer, and is a graduate of Centre College of Kentucky and Washington University in St. Louis.

The Sophie Washington book series recounts the adventures of a precocious African American preteen from Houston, TX and her diverse group of friends. Each funny and heartwarming story teaches lessons about friendship, responsibility, truthfulness and perseverance. Books in the series include Queen of the Bee, The Snitch, Things You Didn\’t Know About Sophie, The Gamer, Hurricane, and Mission: Costa Rica.

Tonya loves to travel and has visited 49 American states and three continents, but some of her best journeys have been between the pages of a novel. As a girl she could always be found with a book in her hand, and reading is still one of her favorite hobbies. When she\’s not reading or writing, the author likes to ride her bike, swim, and spend time with her husband and three children. She lives in Houston, TX.

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Tonya Duncan Ellis will be awarding $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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6 thoughts on “SOPHIE WASHINGTON: SECRET SANTA by Tonya Duncan Ellis

  1. I'm shivering here in Houston this morning, Mary (It's 53 degrees, which is cold to us :), and your super sweet review of my book warmed my heart! Thanks bunches for reading Sophie Washington: Secret Santa and featuring me on your blog.

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