Bigalow (The History of the North Pole, 2012) strings together stories offering his own take on the legend of Santa Claus.
The author imagines Santa’s life, from his start as a man of means somewhere in the North Forest. Santa’s hobby is designing and building toys, while Mrs. Claus delights in cooking. “Do you suppose Santa’s large girth might have been caused by Mrs. Claus’ constant supply of delicious food?” the author asks. Some of the details here are original, such as the happy faces Santa carved on their dining-room chair backs: “I only want to see happy faces around the table, even if every chair is not always filled.” However, too many details tend to bog down the story; at Santa’s fourth cup of cocoa and third stack of pancakes, young readers may begin to squirm. When the Clauses’ barns overflow with toys, Mrs. Claus suggests that Santa give them away to children. How do Santa and a few helpers deliver toys to all the North Forest children in one night? Santa believes “it must be the excitement of the night that makes us able to do things at much faster speeds than we think we are moving.” When the ruling class feels threatened by Santa’s mystical powers, the couple moves all the way north. Though told the elves there are poor workers, the Clauses find—once the elves’ hunger is satisfied by candy—they will happily do more work in less time than humanly possible. Other mysteries solved include how candy canes, letters to Santa and flying reindeer came to be. Luminous illustrations, one for almost each of the 32 chapters, provide welcome relief from full pages of wordy text that feature numerous passive, awkward sentences—“Santa’s magical powers seemed to be fascinating”—which may diminish read-aloud enjoyment. Elsewhere, emotions are repeatedly told rather than shown: “Santa…never felt so exhilarated in his whole life, as he had experienced great delight watching how happy he had made the children.”
More of the delightful illustrations and less tin-eared text would increase this book’s appeal to young Santa-believers.