The Santa Trap

written by Jonathan Emmett
illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Jonathan Emmett's The Santa Trap
illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Book review by Susan Syddall

Ages 4-8

Warning: Don't Try to Catch Santa!

Who knew that trying to catch Santa could be such a dangerous affair! It is if you're Bradley Bartleby. Bradley is one of those children whose name does not appear on Santa's list of good boys and girls! This isn't going to stop Bradley, however, who is determined to get ALL of Santa's presents regardless of whether he deserves them or not!

If you're looking for a Christmas book with a difference, then "The Santa Trap" written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene, is definitely it! The winning combination of this internationally successful author and renowned illustrator has produced a captivating children's picture book which takes an entirely unexpected approach to the Christmas season.

There are a couple of things "The Santa Trap" is NOT. Firstly, it is not a 'warm and fuzzy' Christmas book. The pages are not full of peace and goodwill. On the contrary: the story is based on a beastly boy, Bradley Bartleby whose prime aim in life is to create a Santa Trap. The reason Bradley Bartleby wants to catch Santa is because he doesn't appreciate receiving socks from Santa. The reason Santa gives socks is because Bradley Bartleby's behaviour is so bad that he can't give him anything else. Unlike Bradley's parents, Santa realises that he can't reward bad behaviour.

Secondly, "The Santa Trap" is NOT a textbook for good parenting skills. After all, good parents don't let their child nail sticks of dynamite inside the chimney walls, or give their child everything he/she demands including a pet elephant. Nor can it be considered appropriate parenting skills to move out and leave your child alone at home due to the fact your home is too dangerous to live in ... and because you're terrified of you own son!

Now let's talk about what "The Santa Trap" IS.

It is a book full of an abundance of splendid illustrations. These illustrations are absolutely superb! The use of rich colours, intricately thought out details, and shadows and light all work together to express the drama and humour of the story line.

Review continues.

cropped image from The Santa Trap book

These are the sort of illustrations that you're happy to revisit to find all the little details that you missed in the first reading.

Often, in the shadows, there are details that add depth to the story. For example, the outline of Santa and his reindeer or Bradley with a bow and arrow. Great children's book illustrations accurately depict the words of the author as well as add details and depth to the story. This is precisely what Poly Bernatene has achieved in his illustrations within this book.

"The Santa Trap" IS skilfully written. It's the sort of book that is a pleasure to read aloud. Just like the illustrations, the text can be described as 'rich'. It is full of vocabulary which has been crafted to describe the action while conveying the thoughts and feelings of the characters. It's one of those books that you just have to turn the page to find out what is going to happen.

"The Santa Trap" IS a book which provides plenty of opportunities for discussions about what Bradley does and what he should do. It highlights attitudes and behaviour so that you can talk together about what is acceptable and what is not. One can only hope that, by the end of the story, Bradley Bartleby has learnt from his experiences. Surely he can see that the only person experienced any trouble was himself - and maybe his parents who will now have to rebuild the house!

Am I worried that by reading this book my boys are going to get ideas about behaving badly? The answer is simply no. We don't have any chimneys to load with dynamite! (By the way, just in case you are worried, the traps created by Bradley Bartleby are really so outrageous that they are definitely not achievable in reality! As I mentioned earlier, the book has been written in such a way that children are quickly able to see what Bradley should and shouldn't be doing!)

The Santa Trap is one of the books in our library box which has been revisited several times. My children and I have both enjoyed reading it together. Therefore, we can highly recommend it.

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Read more of Susan's reviews.

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