When an injury sidelines Santa Claus, his child takes his place.
While the young narrator is proud to have Santa for a dad, it means every Christmas Eve is spent alone. This year, the narrator, a white child of about 10 or 11 in Scandinavian sweater and household slippers, wishes on the first star to spend Christmas Eve with Dad—so when Dad trips and falls readying the sleigh, the child is seized with guilt. Since only family members can work the reindeer, the narrator volunteers. (Santa appears to be a single father, and there are no siblings in evidence.) With respect for Dad increasing at every stop, the child makes the rounds till the sack is empty—but the reindeer stop at one last house, where a young dancer sleeps, a letter to Santa tucked in a stocking. It asks for snow, which the narrator can’t provide, but Santa, who suddenly appears with crutch and bandaged foot, can, and all ends well. While the end of this quiet tale is forced, it still offers a glimpse of Santa’s private life children will likely relish. Maruyama’s illustrations have the look of Marla Frazee’s in The Farmer and the Clown (2014), in both palette and line. Understated humor charms: anxious reindeer peer in the window as the doctor visits; Dad’s suit hangs limply on his much-smaller child.
If plotting stumbles a bit, both concept and illustrations soar. (Picture book. 5-8)