CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 15 . . . . December 14, 2012
Santa's Christmas Handbook is a silly but surprisingly sophisticated tongue in cheek pop up book which is appearing in book stores just in time for holiday gift giving. The sturdy hardcovered volume, full of lift up flaps and humorous illustrations, appears to have been a labour of love put together by its author "Wordsmith Elf" Christopher Edge and its "Illustrator Elves", Tim Hutchinson, Richard Johnson, Maggie Kneen, Sandy Nightingale and Mike Phillips. Advice on how to fly a sleigh, weather warnings, reindeer rules, delivery do's and don'ts, a roof top guide, tips on present placement, and a double page spread on Santa Care (including healthy eating and proper clothing) are all part of the fun. A board game, Christmas quiz and Yule puzzle make up the penultimate page. The handbook finishes with a final "Remember Us" page from Santa's Elf Helpers and an endpaper featuring Santa's "passport" and an airline "ticket" to Barbados!
There are one or two puzzling features of this Scholastic publication whose brightly coloured front cover boasts a huge bespectacled Santa head replete with a beard that glitters and the words "By Santa's Elves". All in fun, the reader is meant to suppose, and, as such, it surely targets the older un believing crowd. It is, therefore, a little difficult to determine for just what age the volume is intended. Why, for instance, would the game page include puzzles and a board game of interest to children around five to six years of age? The vocabulary and level of sophistication throughout the rest of the book are certainly more appropriate for children in the 9 to 12 year old age group. There is a great deal of text, much of it in very small print and requiring a sense of humour more likely to be found in older children and adults. The proliferation of pop ups and fold outs will appeal to little ones, but, alas, these are very easily damaged by small fingers. Santa's Christmas Handbook would not be likely to stand up well in an elementary school library or daycare facility. As well, the reading level throughout is at least Grade 4, hence the sensible option would be to have the handbook read aloud to young listeners by an adult or older child. Such a reading would be a fairly long one, requiring a high degree of patience as well as a willingness to explain jokes that might or might not go over the child's head.
Santa's Christmas Handbook is listed on the back cover for ages 5 plus, but a more realistic recommendation would suggest it was a suitable gift for good, older readers with a long attention span. In fact, it might be the perfect Yuletide gift for that child who is a "print nut", the child who cannot light anywhere without reading, whether it be the print on cereal boxes at the table, magazines in the bathroom, ads on the bus and so forth. One such nine-year-old print nut opined that Santa's Christmas Handbook is a cool book, that it would be fun to read to his younger sister and that it is definitely worth the $17.99 price tag.
Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in 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.