Santa's Stuck
By Rhonda Gowler Greene

Rhonda Gowler Greene's Santa's Stuck
Children's book review by P.J. Rooks

Ages 5 - 9
Dutton Children's Books, 2004

He was a skinny thing in his younger years, comparatively speaking -- a mere wisp of a man back in the early days of Saint Nicholas.

Then something went very wrong. A glandular issue, perhaps?

Someone really should sit down with Santa and discuss the dangers of obesity. Of course, when you spend some 1,700 years cramming yourself full of cookies and fudge, you're bound to put on a pound or two.

Review continues.

Santa eats

This time, though, it's too late. Santa has eaten the final cookie -- the cookie that popped a button from his ever-tightening suit and sent it flying -- the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.

He is too fat to get back up the chimney and, whoops, it might have been better if he had realized that before he tried. Now there's trouble...

While the children merrily snooze, the animals of the house, one by one, are alerted to Santa's conundrum in the chimney and, concerned, pad into the living room to see if they can help.

The reindeers toss down a rope and pull; the dog pushes from below. Mama Cat and her six kittens join in, but still, no luck. The mouse comes to help too, but his little weight isn't much to leverage against Santa's bulging mass.

Finally, the mouse has an idea. Commandeering a new, bright yellow bulldozer from under the Christmas tree, he pushes, the dog and cats push, the reindeers pull and pop! -- Santa is free at last (and remarkably unscathed for having just been forcibly scraped up a narrow, brick tunnel.)

Just as there is something unsettling about the Santa myth, (after all, who doesn't worry for his safety?) there is something refreshing about having lifelong impossibilities addressed and Santa's Stuck offers one possible perspective -- that perhaps it isn't quite as easy as we've made it out to be.

(Incidentally, if you're finding yourself hard-pressed to explain Christmas magic to that ever-curious and vigilantly logical group of Santa devotees we call children, check out Five Sci-Fi Rebirths for Santa, an amusing article of Yuletide cloning and nanotechnology from io9.com.)

Expressive faces and vivid illustrations light up the pages of Santa's Stuck. Reindeer wince, worry and grunt at Santa's predicament. Surprised kittens, a hopeless dog, and a woman in a portrait who raises one judgmental eyebrow as Santa's button pops off all add to the humor of this fast-paced holiday rhyme.

With a similar cadence, another fun mouse-in-the-house ode is Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley.

While the family sleeps, Mouse is up, scavenging about in the kitchen and, after splashing milk across the floor, building a fort out of packed brown sugar, swimming in the dishwater and jumping in a pile of cornflakes, he looks back at the mess he's made and comments that "these people need to clean their house!"

The children are nestled, but the mice are stirring. Before you tuck your little sugar plums into bed this Christmas, enjoy some cuddle up time with these two fun stories.

Visit our xmas reading gifts page and our fun Christmas books page.

Read more of P.J.'s reviews.

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