Santa puts the Christ back in Christmas.
“It was on Christmas Eve / In a small Midwestern town” when two kids walking through the snow and imagining all the gifts they’ll receive see “the ol’ man himself / Mr. Kris Kringle / That great jolly old elf” slipping into a church. Sneaking in after him, they watch as he walks straight up to the manger scene at the altar and begins to pray. He asks Jesus for “the knowledge that I need / To help all of these children / To not give in to greed / To recognize that Christmas / Is not all about me.” Indeed, Santa goes on to actually voice the bromide that Jesus is “the true reason / for the season” and that he, “ol’ Santa,” is simply Jesus’ “servant.” The children exchange a meaningful look as Santa concludes, leaving the church “with a glow on his face.” They then approach the manger to pray: “Dear Jesus—thank you!” Moss illustrates Roberts’ poem with inky, crosshatched lines and spare applications of color. Santa’s red suit provides a vivid focus for the otherwise muted pages. He and the two children are white. While Roberts’ poetry leaves rather a lot to be desired, his articulation of a tension felt in many a household makes this book stand out, effectively bridging the gap between wholly secular and wholly religious offerings.
Inartful but sincere. (Picture book. 4-8)