Canfield (Hardly Even Rich, 2018, etc.) offers an all-ages tale about the meaning of Christmas, taking thematic cues from Charles Dickens’ most famous holiday tale.
An elf named Marmel is the head of the labeling department at the North Pole. As such, it’s his duty to make sure that all humans get sorted onto either the “Naughty” or “Nice” list. But this Christmas, it seems that none of the other elves have listed a single person as “Naughty,” which has never happened before during Marmel’s 107 years in the labeling department. Suspicious, he decides to dig into the individual reports, and he finds one about the Krumwerth family. He deems them to be “certifiably hopeless” and definitely, undoubtedly Naughty. In fact, they’ve been on the Naughty List for two years running, so he must officially inform them that a third time will put them on the Permanent Naughty List. He appears to Amanda Krumwerth to deliver the warning, which sparks her struggle to get her family members back into the Christmas spirit. Meanwhile, Marmel is starting to lose his own Christmas spirit, which, for an elf, is seriously bad news. There’s no end of Christmas stories urging readers to be kind, to share, and to experience the joys of family, like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In this one, however, Canfield puts these age-old themes into a thoroughly modern setting without ever making the text feel preachy or saccharine. It’s a story that’s suitable for children, but it doesn’t talk down to them; indeed, some young readers may find its vocabulary to be a pleasant challenge. On the very first page, for instance, the author uses the word “infallible”—a term that isn’t found in many chapter books for young audiences. This book is particularly recommended for readers who enjoy tales of redemption with happy endings.
A wonderful addition to any Christmas-story collection, featuring plenty of charm and a subtle wit.