Is Jack’s substitute teacher really Kris Kringle incognito?
Young Jack, who appears to be a child of color with light brown skin and straight, black hair, is wishing for snow. Kids in his class think that all of their wishes will come true when they notice that their substitute teacher, Mr. Clausen, has a lot in common with Santa Claus. He appears white with light skin and curly white hair, including a full beard. Beyond his physical appearance, he also: has a fondness for milk and cookies; wears a red shirt, green pants, and black boots; has a big laugh that “sounded a lot like a ‘ho, ho, ho’ ”; knits stockings; makes lists; and uses a sled as a prop in science class. The titular “ho ho homework” is an assignment for the kids to make paper snowflakes and write their wishes on them. Jack is at first reluctant to do this because he is dubious about whether or not Mr. Clausen is, in fact, Santa Claus, but he ultimately does so, and he and “the whole neighborhood” wake to a white Christmas. The colorful, digitally enhanced watercolor art has an aesthetic that Tomie dePaola fans will recognize and enjoy. It depicts an apparently racially diverse classroom, but the children all seem to be united in a belief in Santa Claus, which feels unlikely.
This school story for Christmas has a narrower audience than it depicts. (Picture book. 4-7)