When Santa Fell To Earth
When Santa Fell To Earth
Chicken House, Hardcover, 9780439782043, 192pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2006
Scared by a storm, Twinklestar, the least reliable reindeer, bolts--causing Santa and his sleigh to crash-land. And though Santa has dropped into a friendly neighborhood, he's not safe: Jeremiah Goblynch, the ruthless new leader of the Council of Yuleland, is determind to put an end to children's wishes and turn the holiday season into his own personal moneymaking scheme. As the last REAL St. Nick around, only Santa stands between Goblynch and his grinchlike plan. With the help and hope of kids Charlotte and Ben, Santa must face Goblynch and his Nutcracker goons to save Christmas.
Funke's (Inkheart ) reinvention of the Santa myth involves foul-mouthed elves, invisible reindeer and angels who sew, bake, cobble boots and collect children's dreams for Niklas Goodfellow, the last real Santa. After Goodfellow's caravan plummets to the earth during a thunderstorm, a kind boy named Ben, with nasty parents and a self-esteem problem, is bullied into knocking on the caravan's door. He learns Goodfellow is in grave danger from Gerold Goblynch, a Santa who's crossed over to the dark side, embracing a commercialized Christmas and sending the reindeer to the meat-packing plant. The wild explanations of Santa's operations and the scatological humor may appeal to kids who no longer believe, but younger children may be horrified at reindeer turned into salami, or frightened by Goblynch's giant Nutcracker henchmen. Ages 9-12.(Oct.)
Now that Funke's U.S. name recognition is rock solid, it will surprise few to see her foreign backlist emerge in English editions. In this illustrated Christmas novel originally published in Germany in 1994, short chapters tell of a grinchy takeover in Yule Land, where the region's crack team of Santas has been forced to submit to new, moneygrubbing policies. A renegade good Santa recruits main character Ben and a lonely neighborhood girl to help topple the tyrant. Many members of the chapter book audience will count themselves too worldly to truck with books about Santa, and for every glimmer of the invention that distinguishes Funke's later efforts, there are some odd notes, such as references to Ben's math difficulties that read like a gleeful endorsement of cheating. Still, there are few Christmas-themed options for children wanting something more substantial than a picture book, and families seeking a seasonal, chapter-a-day readaloud will find the cookie-cutter storyline perfectly palatable alongside eggnog and gathered loved ones. Jennifer Mattson
Two children discover that Santa's not just one person when a brightly decorated wagon crashes down in their neighborhood shortly before Christmas. Inside is Niklas Goodfellow, who explains to the astonished Ben and Charlotte that he's the only Santa left who gives out elf-manufactured toys; all of his compatriots are either under the thumb of the plutocratic Gerold Geronimus Goblynch, who distributes only commercialized goods, or they've been transformed into chocolate. In illustrations that sometimes shoulder onto the next page, Howard depicts Niklas as a gentso young that his work clothes include a false beardwho glows with kindness, and travels with three dozen surly, Keebler-like worker elves along with a pair of diminutive angels. His determination to stay in the neighborhood until Christmas leads to a final confrontation with the un-jolly Goblynch. Adding subplots in the form of a bully for Ben and loneliness for shy Charlotte, Funke engineers just deserts for Goblynch, then closes with a Christmas Day so filled with the proper spirit of wonder that even Ben's irascible dad succumbs. The humor, plus some unusual character types, sets this apart from the general run of holiday tales. (Fantasy. 10-12)