A visit from St. Nicholas, under the sea.
The text’s conceit is immediately apparent in the title, which recasts the narrator, his wife, their children, and St. Nick as lobsters. The last is dubbed Sea Santa, and he rides underwater in a scallop-shell sleigh pulled by minnows. While this version’s faltering rhyme and cadence may feel especially jarring due to the direct inspiration from the well-known 1823 poem, the text cleverly plays with sea-life facts and terms in lines such as “Skate cases were hung on the reef with care / In hopes that Sea Santa soon would be there.” The appropriately watery illustrations, meanwhile, rightfully eschew the traditional berry reds and piney greens of traditional Christmas books in favor of a cooler palette for the undersea setting. Missed opportunities to fully engage with the text undermine the artistic achievement, however, particularly with regard to Sea Santa’s visual characterization. For example, instead of imaginatively and directly depicting Sea Santa with the lines beginning, “His black eyes they bobbled, his hard shell blue-green, / His fantail flip-flopped with a glimmering sheen,” the accompanying spread is dominated by water and seaweed and adopts a distant perspective that obscures the Santa-inspired figure in the lower corners of the spread. Backmatter provides facts about lobsters but fails to elevate the book as a whole.
Not the best catch for Christmas. (Picture book. 4-6)