Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Christmas Magic

Written by Lauren Thompson and illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Scholastic Press, 2009

$16.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

In the days leading up to Christmas, children love to imagine what Santa is doing.

To them, he's as mysterious as he is nice. They sit on his lap at the mall, but rarely get to ask what it's like to be the jolliest man on earth.

In this spellbinding collaboration, Thompson (author of the award-winning Polar Bear Night) and Muth (author-illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book Zen Shorts) give Santa's fans a rare glimpse into the hours leading up to Christmas.

As we expect, the friendly old man in the red suit has much to do at the North Pole, however Santa isn't racing around his workshop, looking harried. He's calm and reflective, soaking in every magical moment before he comes to town.

In a little yellow house with a red door, far removed from the bustle of cities, we find Santa standing in front of a picture window with a wondrous look in his eyes as a tingling sensation moves through his whiskers.

He has bunny slippers on his feet and a comfy apron over his wide tummy, and he's pausing to gaze out the window at his reindeer and watch the setting sun turn the undersides of clouds an orange-pink.

It's time to slip on his floppy red hat with a giant star at the tip, step outside with his littlest reindeer, a smiley fellow that follows him like a puppy, and call to the older reindeer to prepare for flight.

"Come along home now," he says through a blow horn. "The magic will be here soon."

In the barn Santa brushes burs off the shaggy coats of his reindeer and feeds them berries and parsnips from his hand, before swinging open a giant door to reveal his big red sleigh.

After polishing the sleigh's metal sides, he buffs the bells on the harness until they jingle, then goes to house, where he oils his boots, darns his socks, combs his beard and gives his mustache one last trim as a kitten watches from his shoulder.

Now it's time to climb the stairs to the attic where all of the toys are kept. Santa runs his fingertips over every entry in his big book of names and smiles. He knows exactly which toy each child dreams of most.

Soon his sack is bulging and he climbs to the top of the bag and cinches it closed.

Outside in the night, the stars twinkle brighter than ever and the moon reflects on the bark of trees. Santa stands on his sleigh, his body slack as if humbled by a greater power, and looks upward to the sky for a sign.

All at once, his whiskers tingle and the night begins to thrum with magic. Santa takes his seat and with a shake of his reins, the reindeer dash off with the sleigh as fluffy snowflakes swirl around in the dark sky.

Everyone knows how rushed the days can be leading up to Christmas. Here's a magical book that will put the brakes on all the stress and help children revel in the wonder of it all.

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