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MY PEN PAL, SANTA by Melissa Stanton


by Melissa Stanton, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-375-86992-1
Publisher: Random House

A little girl named Ava corresponds with Santa by mail for an entire year; their monthly letters make up the text of this mildly amusing holiday story.

The letters begin in January with Ava’s thank-you letter for her Christmas presents and continue with a pair of letters for each month through the following Christmas Eve. Ava asks Santa lots of questions in her letters, shown on the left-hand pages with scenes from Ava’s world. Santa’s patient letters answering all of Ava’s questions are shown on facing right-hand pages with accompanying views of life at the North Pole. Cheerful illustrations in a loose, comfortable style add considerable appeal to the story, but Ava’s letters don’t always seem child-written, and Santa’s letters are sometimes expository lists lacking humor. The little girl’s letters include several questions about whether Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are real and whether “presents come from our parents.” Santa always manages reasonable explanations in his responses, but the questions are ones adult readers might wish to avoid altogether in a children’s book about Santa. The conclusion is the best part of the book, with Ava’s single Christmas request, to meet Santa, satisfied on the final, wordless page.

The letter format has become popular as a textual structure in picture books, but this collection of missives misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)