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SANTA'S CLAUSES NEW BOOKS FOR KIDS MAKE CHRISTMAS MORNING A REAL PAGE TURNER.

Byline: Samantha Gonzaga Staff Writer

We all know the Grinch's story, Frosty's foolish foray into town and St. Nick's midnight visit.

What about a toy dinosaur's holiday wishes, or how Santa's daughter spent one Christmas Eve? The cast of Christmas characters, big and small, continues to grow each year in children's literature. If you're interested in adding to your Christmas book collection, one of these may catch your fancy. For those who have overdosed on Christmas already, we've added a couple of interesting offerings for adults and children alike.

``Santa and Me: For Santa, Love Mrs. Claus,'' by Erik Jon Slangerup. Illustrated by Joshua James. School Specialty Children's Publishing; $15.

Those wondering about the man in the red suit and sleigh will appreciate the humor in Erik Jon Slangerup's ``Santa and Me.''

A sentimental Mrs. Claus is the voice in this scrapbook-like tome. Fake but readable newspaper clippings detailing Santa's hobbies as a bachelor (sleigh racing, which he always won), and the couple's search for prime North Pole real estate add to the breezy narrative.

There is plenty to see in this book. Illustrator Joshua James nicely evokes the crowded yet intimate feel of memorabilia collecting. Ticket stubs from dates, old (sleigh) driver's licenses, and ``snapshots'' of some daring toy-delivery adventures show Santa through the decades (and turnover of workshop elves).

``Santa Kid,'' by James Patterson. Illustrated by Michael Garland. Little, Brown and Co.; $19.

Chrissie Claus will tell you that her dad, Santa Claus, is usually svelte in the off season, has brown hair and likes being cleanshaven.

Writer James Patterson adds a contemporary spin to the Claus family in ``Santa Kid.'' Christmas was almost lost when a corporate Christmas specialty giant, the Exmass Express, muscles into Santa's neck of the woods. Overpowered by CEO Warrie Ransom's money-making ambition, Santa finds himself jobless. His elves, under the regime of their new boss, work overtime to make toys named Princess PeePee and PooPoo, and the infamous 315th Day Toy (which fell apart on the 315th day of the year each year).

Warrie Ransom fails to meet his overhead costs, resulting in the downsizing of gift recipients - by 79 percent. With dad too depressed to budge from bed, Chrissie takes on the task of distributing toys the old- fashioned way: lovingly and manually. Hey, some things just can't be mass-produced.

``Hurray for Today! All About Holidays,'' by Bonnie Worth from The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library. Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu. Random House; $9.

Duplicating Dr. Seuss is no easy feat. Writer Bonnie Worth and illustrators Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu tried anyway, to produce ``Hurray for Today!''

Perfect for young children and beginning readers, Worth imitates Ted Geisel's distinctive internal rhyming scheme to give a run-down of the four seasons, as well as the holidays and other special occasions celebrated each year.

``Merry Christmas to You, Blue Kangaroo!'' Written and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. Doubleday Books; $16.

In this story of simple selflessness, a toy kangaroo searches for the perfect gift for his owner, a young girl named Lily.

Lily dedicates every yuletide song, decoration and experience to her toy, which she considers a living companion. Blue Kangaroo experiences the first-time wonder of Christmas, from Christmas tree decorations to gift-giving. His wishes are finally answered in a chance meeting with Santa Claus himself.

``Harry and the Dinosaurs Make a Christmas Wish,'' by Ian Whybrow. Illustrated by Adrian Reynolds. Random House; $16.

This book is the newest in a series about dinosaur-loving Harry.

His story actually begins during the summer, when he and his (imaginary) talking dinosaur toys witness a baby duck hatching.

The image of the duck - and the desire to raise his own - sticks with Harry throughout the year. Though the friendly farm owner he befriended is keen on letting him have a hatchling, Harry takes his grandmother's advice to wait and decide what he wants as a present.

``Petunia's Christmas,'' Written and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. Knopf; $16.

Roger Duvoisin's 1952 classic reintroduces Petunia the Goose, a crafty farm pet.

On a winter day, Petunia chances upon Charles the Gander, a handsome bird being fattened for holiday dinner. Petunia plots his escape, and for a while it seems to have succeeded. Charles' shrewd owner eventually locates them, reclaims his gander and leaves a heartbroken Petunia to fret about his future.

Her resolve to rescue Charles results in a funny stint as a sidewalk Santa Claus and as a wreath vendor. Touched by her dedication, Charles' owners release him, urging his savior to spend her hard-earned money on a worthier cause.

``Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town,'' by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. Harper Collins; $17.

Author and illustrator Steven Kellogg retells this popular 1934 song by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie through 40 pages of warm, festive artwork.

Complimenting the lyrics are brightly colored drawings of the North Pole, Santa's shop and his elves hard at work. The book comes with a four-page fold-out spread.

``Horse & Pony Encyclopedia'' by Sandy Ranford. Kingfisher; $25.

Budding equestrians will get a kick out of this 220-plus page volume that delves into the world of horse-breeding and competition. Full-color photographs and sketches of stallions, mustangs and ponies bring life to entries on proper grooming, tips for first-time riders and stable equipment.

``Focus on Freshwater Aquarium Fish'' by Geoff Rogers and Nick Fletcher. Firefly; $30.

A respectful look at the quietest household pets. With more than 800 photographs of sharp-sighted tetras, air-gulping anabantids, iridescent- scaled barbs and goldfish, this very visual book catalogs the most common and the thoroughly freakish fish able to survive in a tank. Sections are prefaced with short but informative blurbs on origins, survivability and hardiness of each species.

``Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker's Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss.'' Random House; $35.

This book is a tribute to the legacy of Ted Geisel, a compilation of never-before-seen sketches, handwritten drafts and family photographs. At the heart of this 368-page hardback volume are 13 of Geisel's most popular children's tales, each prefaced with essays by loved ones and fans. Writers include his widow, Audrey Geisel, ``Berenstain Bears'' series authors Stan and Jan Berenstain and actor-writer John Lithgow.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 16, 2004
Words:1052
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