________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 16. . . .December 21, 2012


Island Santa.

Sheryl McFarlane.
Illustrated by Sheena Lott.
Victoria, BC: Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island (Distributed by Orca Books), 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-9880536-0-1.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4



Sheryl McFarlane and Sheena Lott have collaborated successfully in the past with their picture book Jesse's Island (CM Archive Vol. 20, No. 4, Sept. 1992). They are back with a seasonal offering which has been published to raise money for the Children's Health Foundation of Vancouver Island.

      Island Santa is about a family dealing with the serious illness of a child who has to be taken by boat far from her home for treatment just before Christmas. Her older brother tells how he is left behind with grandparents while his father takes the sick child to the city. He narrates the story of the Santa boat that makes its circuit each Christmas season, bringing seasonal cheer to the residents of these sea-bound communities.

The whole island turns up for the Santa boat. Hot chocolate and excitement keep us warm. Last year Sophie was the one to see him first and shout "He's here!" But not this year.

      When the visit is over, the kindly skipper offers to take the boy to where his father and Sophie are staying but not before they make numerous other stops to see children who are anxiously awaiting the boat on other islands, and to drop off presents and greetings. The boy even starts making balloon animals for the children that he meets.

      After the excitement of skirting dangerous coasts and seeing a school of orca whales, it is the end of the Santa boat's journey and time for the family to be reunited.

     I can't wait to see Sophie and my dad, but a little piece of me doesn't want this trip to end.

     At the dock a taxi is waiting to take me to my dad. I walk through grand double doors into a living room with a totem pole reaching for the sky. Dad comes running.

     He lifts me off the floor and wraps me in a bear hug. I have a present from Santa, a slightly lopsided balloon dog and a story that I can hardly wait to tell my sister.

      McFarland's text is straightforward but heartfelt. Lott paints in watercolour with a clear, cool palette that reflects the sea and sky of this west coast environment.

      The book is based on true events: Kaare Norgaard, the captain of a small ship, operated a real Santa boat to bring Christmas to families in remote places and eventually established the Norgaard Foundation. Jeneece Edroff was a Vancouver Island girl suffering from a chronic illness who had the idea to build a place for families attending to their sick children while they were in hospital in Victoria, BC. She won an Order of Canada for her fundraising efforts which culminated in the opening of Jeneece Place.


Ellen Heaney is Deputy Librarian and Head of Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.

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