No sleigh, no reindeer, no elves, no North Pole, not even a beard. Santa’s actually a construction worker named Fred.
Read in a decidedly pointed manner—“They say that no one has ever seen him. Do you believe all that?”—by a British narrator (there is also an option for French), this exposé dismisses all the Santa mythology. It goes on to explain how Fred leads a host of friends in gathering funds and Christmas gifts on weekends and holidays all year to distribute by bus. Why? Because he likes to give presents to people and watch their faces light up. Along with various low-rent animations and tap-activated sound effects, the retro-style illustrations offer views of a multicultural cast of “helpers” with names like Nouara and Karim pitching in as the holiday season approaches. Fred himself dresses in red for department-store gigs (“because being a fake Santa Claus is a good way to make money”) and jingles not bells but the set of master keys he uses to sneak into your house on Christmas Eve. That last bit seems a bit off-kilter, but giving over Santa’s annual role to good-hearted “ordinary people living in ordinary places” is at least somewhat closer to reality.
So charmingly offbeat that readers who still believe should survive their initial disappointment. (iPad holiday app. 7-9)