By Josh Wolk
Updated December 13, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

In this wispy holiday fable, the prolific humorist Dave Barry recalls a Christmas Eve when a rascally boy in a prototypically yuletidey small town juggled a sick dog, a schoolboy crush, and a Christmas pageant gone awry. With its kooky kid antics and nostalgic gloss, The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog reads like a retread of every whimsical holiday recollection ever purred on NPR. (And for a Jewish critic to say a Christmas tale feels familiar, it’s gotta be pretty damn familiar.) But holidays are made for comfy traditions, so Barry’s tale might be the perfect side dish to your grandma’s ham.