Saturday, December 04, 2010

Loved-to-Death Santa Story A Magical Adventure for Kids

(Image from Indiebound)

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke looks a little different than my other review books. It arrived in pristine condition, complete with crisp pages, a glossy cover and an uncracked spine, but it has now been officially loved to death. My 8-year-old grabbed it as soon as she saw it. She's read it so many times now that the pages stick together (the ones that aren't coming loose, anyway), and the spine's bent. The cover had suffered only minor damage ... until her 2-year-old sister got a hold of it, that is. Upon spying its over-loved state, I figured I better hurry up and read the book before my girls destroyed it completely. Even though I prefer my books unblemished, I can't help smiling every time I pick this one up. To hold in my hands something my daughter's treasured so completely gives me pleasurable little shivers, even if I didn't find it quite as enchanting as she did.

The story opens on a blustery December night. Niklaus Goodfellow, a Santa Claus, the last Santa Claus in fact, is hurtling through the sky in a creaky caravan. Terrified by the storm brewing around him, Twinklestar the reindeer, breaks his reins, sending the lot of them (himself, Niklaus, and a passel of tiny helpers) tumbling to the Earth. The caravan lands on a street called Misty Close, where the ramshackle vehicle and its strange owner soon draw the - sometimes unwelcome - attention of the neighborhood's curious residents. Plenty of rumors circulate about the strange occurence, but no one knows the truth of it.

Then, a dare from the school bully propels Ben to knock on the caravan's door. What he finds inside shocks him. Not only does he meet a real, live Santa Claus, but he's greeted by elves, angels, and Christmas magic like he's never known. So, when Ben finds out that Niklaus is being hunted by Gerold Geronimus Goblynch, an evil Santa bent on controlling the whole holiday world, he knows he has to help his new friend. His vow turns into a dangerous adventure filled with malevolent nutcrackers, a marzipan-loving reindeer, and one very, very angry Santa. Rescuing Christmas from Goblynch's greedy clutches won't be easy, but Ben has to succeed. Otherwise, the season will never, ever be the same.

Although When Santa Fell to Earth isn't quite as magical as I wanted it to be, I enjoyed the fun holiday romp. Funke advances some captivating ideas (angels carrying children's secret wishes to Santa? Yes, please!) while preaching against materialism and avarice. While it doesn't get into the true meaning of Christmas, the story offers kids an exciting tale with a valuable moral. The writing does get awkward, the characters don't develop much, and the author tells a whole lot more than she shows, but I don't think children will notice or care. My daughter certainly didn't. The magical adventure swept her away, time and again. I wasn't quite as charmed. Still, it's an enjoyable book that kids will love. To death, if you're not careful.

(Readalikes: Good question. I can't think of anything. Can you?)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: G

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of When Santa Fell to Earth from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

3 comments:

  1. Aww, this sounds excellent. I'll keep it in mind when my little one is older.

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  2. Sounds adorable! I'll have to put it on my next Scholastic order!

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  3. I loved the look of your blog! Will keep returning :)

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