CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES The Legend of Santa Claus
By Tim Slover
Bantam Books, New York (2010)
Christmas Chronicles is a delightful, although fanciful Christmas story that may become a classic that is read to families and by families for years. It is also available on a CD, which would be fun to listen to in the car while driving to grandma and grandpa’s house for the holidays.
It starts out with a narrator who is cutting pine boughs for Christmas decorations high on a hill when a sleigh roars by on a road that wasn’t there a moment before. A package, which turns out to be a biography of Santa Claus, falls out of the sleigh, which then disappears. The narrator picks up the book and begins to read it.
Thus begins the story in the 1300s. It is a biography of a wood craftsman named Klaus who creates wood toys for the children of his village in the Black Forest of Germany after the black plague kills many of the villagers. The word quickly spreads to other villages and soon Klaus has more toys than he can deliver. The story then continues to tell how Klaus became Santa Claus.
Author Tim Slover has a whimsical, magical way of writing, which draws in readers, makes them want to read more and even start to believe this magical story. He has a way of separating fact from legend and answers such questions as: Does Santa really come down the chimney? How is he able to deliver the toys all in one night? How does Mrs. Claus fit in the picture? How did they meet? How do the reindeer enter the legend? Also touched on is how Santa Claus got to the North Pole, where the name elves comes from and how Mr. and Mrs. Claus are still living today. As I said, you need to believe in magic and have a good imagination.
Both Klaus and his wife, Anna, are made saints and from this comes the name Santa Claus.
Of course, every story has a villain, and a mean one he is. Rolf Eckhof does many evil deeds to counteract and stop the good that Klaus has created for the children of the world. This is a part that may be hard for children to understand.
Except for the villain, this is such an upbeat and entertaining Christmas tale that it doesn’t seem absurd. It is easily read and except for a rather unusual ending, it should put the reader in a wonderful holiday spirit. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
~ Peggy Kiefer
A DOG NAMED CHRISTMAS
By Greg Kincaid
Doubleday Books, New York (2008)
If you are looking for a “feel good” family book to read around the holiday season, you should enjoy A Dog Named Christmas. Sex scenes, violence and profanity are nowhere to be found, just a nice comfortable book to curl up with on a chilly December night. If you didn’t see the television version of this book on the Hallmark Hall of Fame (first aired on CBS in November 2009), or even if you did, read on.
The McCray family lives on a farm that the narrator’s (George McCray) great-great grandfather bought from the Blackfoot Indians. The family has lived there for four generations.
Living in the farmhouse are George McCray, the father, MaryAnn McCray, the mother and their 20-year-old developmentally challenged son, Todd McCray.
Todd hears on the radio that the local animal shelter is looking for families who would foster dogs over the holidays so they don’t have to spend their time in a small cage while most of the shelter volunteers and employees are enjoying the holidays. Todd, after using all of his powers of persuasion, manages to convince his father (with the help of his mother) to take him to the shelter to pick out a dog to bring home for the holiday season. His father agrees only if Todd agrees to take him back the day after Christmas. After Todd thoroughly checks out each dog at the shelter he decides on an older black lab mix that he names Christmas.
Then Todd takes it upon himself to find homes for all of the dogs at the shelter so none will be left behind. He convinces the other members of his family and many of his neighbors to foster a shelter dog for the holidays. As you might expect, all of the dogs are fostered for Christmas.
Of course, Christmas fits right in with the McCray family as if he has always lived there. George continues to remind Todd that he agreed to return Christmas to the shelter on Dec. 26.
A subplot enters the story when we discover that George is still struggling with the loss of two of his beloved dogs many years earlier and feels he cannot go through that again.
It would spoil the story to tell you about the wonderful opportunity that opens up for Todd or what happens to the dog Christmas.
A Dog Named Christmas is a quick and easy read, as well as being an uplifting break from the holiday stress and commercialism. If you are a dog lover, you will enjoy this feel-good book as much as I did.
~ Peggy Kiefer
OutLook by the Bay magazine and this website are made possible through the support of our advertisers and subscribers. We guarantee you’ll learn something new each issue. Please subscribe today.