Stephen is dreading Christmas now that his parents are divorced and he, his sister, and his father are living in a new home with his new Jewish stepmother and stepbrother. After a skirmish between Stephen’s dog, Dewey, and his stepfamily’s cat, Stephen leaves the house in a huff, Dewey in tow. While the pair is out, they encounter en elderly neighbor, who teaches Stephen an unforgettable lesson about family and the real meaning of the winter holidays.
|“I,” said the witch, “am Mathilda. But you may call me Mattie. Now come along, and do try to keep your face out of the snow this time.”
Stephen followed her through the trees strung with popcorn and cranberries until they came to a small, frozen pond. A house loomed over it, dark except for a single window that glowed with faint light. Mattie reached for an ax leaning next to a tree.