The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum (J)

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus     

L. Frank Baum (Juvenile Fiction)

Did you ever wonder why Santa delivers presents on Christmas Eve or why he climbs down a chimney?  Why reindeer were chosen to pull his sleigh or how the first Christmas tree came about?  All of these questions and more are answered about the jolly old man who delivers joy and happiness to every child around the globe on one very special night each year.  From his introduction as a helpless infant who was discovered by the Wood-Nymph Necile in the Forest of Burzee to the night he escaped the Spirit of Death by being given the Mantle of Immortality, the life of Santa Claus is finally shared and what you thought you knew about the man in red may never be the same again.

Two years after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, L. Frank Baum delighted audiences again with another tale of mythical creatures and magical worlds.  The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is not just a history of one of the world’s most notable and recognized figures, but it is a heartwarming story of selflessness, devotion, family, and love.  More importantly, Baum gives us a book extolling and celebrating the virtues of inclusion.  As an abandoned baby, Claus was lovingly adopted and wholly accepted within the secret and protected world of immortals.  As an adult, he once questioned whether or not wealthy children were also deserving of gifts since they already possessed so much.  The Queen of the Fairies replied, “Whether it be rich or poor, a child’s longings for pretty playthings are natural.  I think, friend Claus, it is your duty to make all little ones glad, whether they chance to live in palaces or in cottages.”

Children and adults alike can benefit from the messages Baum delivers in this classic children’s story.  The idea of extending grace, mercy, and joy to everyone we encounter is something we should aspire to every day of the year and not just one.

“’In all this world, there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child,’ says good old Santa Claus; and if he had his way the children would all be beautiful, for all would be happy.”

Merry Christmas from The Dusty Jacket.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

 

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

All during the month of December, we’re reviewing books that celebrate the season.  Enjoy!

Mr Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol    

Samantha Silva (Adult Fiction)

Throughout history, authors have credited some of their most famous works to muses: Dante had Beatrice Portinari; F. Scott Fitzgerald had his wife, Zelda Sayre; and Charles Dickens has a poor seamstress by the name of Eleanor Lovejoy.

Dickens leads an abundantly blessed and expensive lifestyle, and between his growing household, numerous philanthropic endeavors, and covering the debts of relatives, the coffers are quickly running low.  Despite past successes, Dickens’ newest book is selling poorly and the fast-approaching Christmas holiday is proving to be not so merry or bright.  Threatening to withhold future pay, his publisher insists Dickens write a “Christmas book” in just a matter of weeks.  Overwhelmed, under pressure, and fresh out of ideas, it’s enough to make even the great Boz Dickens say, “Bah, humbug.”

Weaving bits of facts with threads of fancy, Samantha Silva gives readers a wonderful behind-the-scenes look into one of the world’s most beloved Christmas tales.  The origins of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim are all so plausible, that you forget this is a work of fiction and instead allow yourself to be dropped into this charming story like a cinnamon stick into a bowl of wassail punch.  As you read, you can begin to imagine and appreciate the mounting pressures and expectations placed upon a man so highly heralded yet so hopelessly human.  As Scrooge was cursed with malevolence, Dickens was equally cursed with benevolence and when life proved to be too much, he sought serenity, solitude, and anonymity.  Silva tells us that Dickens dabbled in magic and, at one point in her story, he noted that behind every illusion, fiction, and lie, was our great desire to believe.  This leads us to reconsider the idea that perhaps even a character as detestable as Ebenezer Scrooge wanted desperately to believe in something or someone but simply lacked the energy or the will to do so.  Like his creator, perhaps Ebenezer Scrooge was a man eventually beaten down by the burdens of life.

Near the end of the book, Dickens is in his darkest hour and Eleanor attempts to remind him about the importance of his books and what Christmas is truly all about: “And the colder it was, the nearer we were to each other, and to the truth of Christmas.  The truth of your books…That despite what is cold and dark in the world, perhaps it is a loving place after all.”  It’s easy to see why Silva’s book is more fiction than fact, for with words like these, a muse like Eleanor Lovejoy would indeed be difficult to find…even by the great Charles Dickens.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com

 

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket (J)

The Latke Who Couldnt Stop Screaming

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story     

Lemony Snicket (Juvenile Fiction)

“This story ends in someone’s mouth, but it begins in a tiny village more or less covered in snow.”

This is no ordinary Christmas story.  This is a story of a latke—that delicious, traditional part of the Hanukah celebration.  This particular latke talks—food and animals often talk in stories such as this—and this talking latke is trying very hard to explain exactly what it is and what it represents.  It’s not having much luck.  Well, YOU try explaining Hanukah to a string of lights, a candy cane, and a pine tree…ALL of which keep comparing your traditions to Christmas.  Hanukah is NOT Christmas.  It’s a totally different thing.  Will they EVER get it right?

In true Lemony Snicket spirit, this story is a wickedly funny and dastardly delightful tale about likenesses, differences, traditions, and the need to find a common thread that connects us all.  This book is a wonderful way to introduce young readers to the history of Hanukah and the symbolism behind the eight-day celebration.  Pre-readers can become a fun and interactive part of the story by providing the AAAHHHHHHHH!!! parts that the latke screams out of frustration.  Snicket describes this as “A Christmas Story”, but Hanukah is a totally different thing.  Just ask the latke.

Lemony Snicket has entertained readers with a number of unpleasant books, but this one offers a sweet and valuable lesson.  When the latke explains how Christmas and Hanukah are completely different things, this time to a pine tree, the tree replies, “But different things can often blend together.”  It would serve us all well to carry this message with us, not just at Christmas or Hanukah, but during all the days of the year.  Different things can indeed blend together—like applesauce or sour cream blends with, for instance, latkes!  AAAHHHHHHHH!!!

Rating: 4/5

Posted: 12/11/2018

* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com 

 

The True Gift: A Christmas Story by Patricia MacLachlan (J)

The True Gift

The True Gift: A Christmas Story    

Patricia MacLachlan (Juvenile Fiction)

Lily and Liam are off to Grandpa and Gran’s farm for Christmas.  They always go in December and then wait for Mama and Papa to join them on Christmas Day.  Lily likes the sameness that this time of year brings:  the walks into town, the trip to the lilac library, and helping Gran make cookies.  But when her brother spots a white cow standing alone in a snowy meadow, Lily’s predictable holiday is suddenly threatened.  “Do we know if she’s lonely?” Liam asks his sister.  “She’s a cow,” replies Lily.  “Cows don’t care.”  But Liam cares and because of this, Lily knows that White Cow is bound to ruin everything…especially Christmas.

From the author who delighted us with Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan gives readers another book filled with compassion, love, and family.  She introduces us to Lily, a young girl who finds herself angered by her brother’s selfless desire to help a creature that finds itself quite alone on Christmas.  Fortunately, Liam’s determined desire to bring comfort to this lonely creature is enough to eventually whittle down Lily’s stubborn defenses until at last, she surprises herself by whispering to White Cow one night, “Don’t worry.  We’ll take care of you.”  Those few words set in motion a turning of Lily’s heart, as well as the fate of another soul in need of rescuing.

The True Gift shows us that any small act of kindness isn’t truly small at all.  By giving us a simple story of a young girl, a small boy, and a lonely white cow, MacLachlan reminds us that Christmas is about giving from the heart and that the act of bestowing even the slightest bit of charity to another being is perhaps one of the truest gifts of all.

Rating: 4/5

Posted: 12/4/2018

* Book cover image attributed to www.barnesandnoble.com