CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005
The prolific Eric Walters is joined by his teen daughter Christina in authoring this humorous tale about the woman behind that great man, Santa Claus. Told in first person, by Mrs. Claus (who is portrayed by illustrator Gooderham as younger, thinner and taller than her better-known husband) the satirical story provides, as promised by the title, a look at what really goes on at Santa's place. Firstly, Mrs. Claus points out that Santa has 364 days of holidays per year, and, even on the one day he does work, it's only in the evening. That was not always the case, however, and once Santa had worked pretty well year round at the Workshop. However, about 50 years ago, when the elves became ill, Mrs. Claus stepped in to help, and she did such a good job that "everyone said it was just about the very best Christmas that anybody could remember." Having enjoyed the experience, Mrs. Claus just kept on pitching in, but, as her involvement increased, her husband's declined until soon he spent virtually all his time in front of their big screen TV watching sports. He even got to the point where he was even eating all of his meals in front of the tube. His sedentary lifestyle, coupled with his one night a year binge on cookies and milk left for him by virtually every child in the world, led to an enormous weight gain, and Santa ballooned to the size we now associate with him (though Mrs. Claus can remember him when he was a svelte "hunk"). While Mrs. Claus tried to talk her husband into a resuming a more active style, he resisted, claiming that, as a saint - Saint Nicholas - he was naturally perfect the way he was. Mrs. Claus takes the drastic step of faking an illness, a case of hiccumititus, the symptoms of which are hiccuping and colored spots, the latter applied with Crayola markers. Santa is forced to resume work in order to meet his Christmas deadline, and, since then, the husband and wife team work and play together:
Now Santa and I run the Workshop as a team. When we work, we work together, and when we rest we sit down together in our matching lazy boys and watch TV together. The strangest thing is that I'm actually starting to like watching monster truck rallies.
Gooderham uses a cartoony style, and his illustrations include scads of details that aren't found in the text. For instance, his portrayal of the Workshop is high tech, and children's stockings are bar-coded so that the "STUFF.O.MATIC" filling machine "knows" whether to fill the stocking from the "bad" or the "good" nozzle. And while Santa still uses reindeer to pull his sleigh, the craft, under Gooderham's fingers, becomes more like a winged landing craft with a ramp that opens for easy loading. Unfortunately, Gooderham's double page spread of the bed-bound Mrs. Claus doesn't do justice to his subtle acknowledgment of Eric Walters. Mrs. Claus has been reading one of Eric's book, but the volume is lost in the pages' gutter.
While younger readers will enjoy the book's fun, the subtleties of the humour will be better appreciated by older children (plus many mothers, who, while reading the book to their children, might think that they, too, have married a Santa).
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA lit. at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.