CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 9 . . . . November 2, 2012
The editorial attribution of this book is rather problematic. Stating that Moore's poem has been "edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century," the illustrators of this version have simply deleted two lines of the poem deemed problematic for contemporary children. "The stump of his pipe he held tight in his teeth; And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath." These lines were not replaced, but eradicated to fit a politically correct anti-smoking agenda. Perhaps this reviewer would not have been so incensed if there had not been a claim that Santa Claus, himself, was responsible for the bowdlerization. The illustrations also do not correspond with the notion of the book being edited for contemporary children. The Disney-like full-colour digital art work reflects the era when the poem was first published, with the family tree being lit with candles (a fire hazard discouraged today) and candles everywhere to illuminate the visit of the jolly old man (who retains his rotund body shape). The gifts in Santa's pack are reminiscent of toys from at least fifty years ago as well. If this was truly a version for contemporary children, should not the illustrations be updated to reflect today's world rather than one in the past?
The book has been published in English, Spanish and French and in three formats: hardcover, an e-book and an enhanced interactive read along version for iBooks. According to the publicity package provided with the review copy, the e-book will be given away free on behalf of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout event on Nov. 17.
With the deletion of any reference to smoking, other than the pictorial references to candle smoke, however, parents and educators are denied the opportunity to discuss with young people the changing attitudes towards smoking and the health issues caused by tobacco use if children question the reference to the pipe. The chief problem with this type of edited version is that children are not given any credit as rational thinking beings when their world is being sanitized for them by well-intentioned adults. How do they then learn how to think for themselves?
Gail de Vos teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies for the University of Alberta and is the author of nine books on storytelling and folklore.
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