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Monday, December 4, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (62): Christmas

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. I'm totally starting this post in January 2016! And finishing it in June 2017!

I actually started this because I read the first book before giving it to a kid, and it felt odd putting it in a book with other non-Christmas books. If you're not a Christmas person, you can just skip this post. Life is weird,though. I didn't have time to read any Christmas books last December, and I can't see next December being any less hectic, so. Let's see how scheduling a blog post for six months in the future goes!

When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke

Published: Originally published in 1994 in German, it was translated into English in 2006.
Genre: MG Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 167
Part of a series? Nope, standalone
Got via: The Library.

Summary (from goodreads): What would happen if Santa fell to Earth? Christmas through the eyes of Cornelia Funke: quirky, funny, ultimately heartwarming, and packaged in a collectible format. A new holiday classic!

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!

Thoughts: I'm kind of sitting here puzzled by this one. On one hand, I really enjoyed how original it was, and the concept was definitely something I had never seen before. On the other, there are just thing that did not work for me.

The idea of there being multiple Santas out there is an idea I think is pretty awesome. The specific mythos, I have never come across before. Having a young Santa here is also something that you don't see constantly, and it works very well. There's something wonderful about a young Santa who is enthusiastic, jolly, and just a little inexperienced and uncertain. The illustrations are beautiful and really help the story feel just that more magical.

However, not all of it works for me like that. Sometimes it drags a little, but somehow the ending felt rushed. I also think this is a hard one to recommend - it's a bit short for a lot of older kids, but younger or more sensitive readers may not be ready for this kind of different Santa story, and some of the imagery might be too violent. There was also some casual racism in describing Niklas' caravan using the g-slur. The book was written in 1994, but with a 2006 translation, that isn't cool.

In the end, I still liked this one, and thought it was an interesting Christmas story, it won't become a Christmas classic for me, and I will only recommend it with warnings to preread before giving this to a child. I don't think it's very memorable and it is not my favourite of Cornelia Funke's books.

Kringle by Tony Abbott

Published: October 1st, 2005 by Scholastic Press
Genre: MG Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 317 plus acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Deep in the land of ghosts and frost, back in the days of long ago, when elves and goblins still roamed the earth, there was a boy named Kringle. He lived a quest, solitary existence... until his twelfth winter, when goblins attacked his home and cast the boy out into the wilderness.

Now Kringle finds himself adrift in a strange and frightening world. But fate soon intervenes. Through encounters with elves, pirates, the ancient magic of time, and the dark threat of goblins massing for an epic battle, Kringle begins to realize that he has a destiny to fill - and that even a lone boy can wield the power to change the world forever.

Thoughts: I think my favourite part of this was the cool pictures, and the gold edging on the pages. I don't know. This was just kind of weird. I mean, this really has very little to actually do with Christmas besides the main character being named Kringle. It doesn't even really mention it until like the last 80 pages or something, and most of the time it's just called "Long Night". The book certainly didn't put me in the Christmas spirit. (I realize part of that might be because it's June, but I'm also really wanting to watch Krampus again so... probably it was the book.)

Also, as someone who celebrates Christmas but isn't religious... this book leans heavily on Christianity. There is a whole lot of Jesus talk, the main character gets converted to Christianity along with all the elves, and I got so sick of the words "the child" because they would not stop talking about it. And the back of the book didn't mention how religious this would get.

This was just... kinda dark and strange, and really not my thing. And Kringle is way too perfect. I actually laughed when the book said, literally, that he was the chosen one. He never is selfish or makes mistake or anything. He's just always perfect. This was just very meh for me, and I can't see myself recommending it. The illustrations were, though, neat.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

Published: November 12th, 2015 by Canongate
Genre: Fantasy MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 266 plus the acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.

It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.
If you are one of those people who believe that some things are impossible, you should put this book down right away. It is most certainly not for you.

Because this book is FULL of impossible things.

Are you still reading?


Then let us begin . . .

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and an eleven-year-old boy called Nikolas, who isn't afraid to believe in magic.

Thoughts: Okay, this was more like what I was hoping Kringle to be. The idea behind them both is basically the same thing, but this is way less dark and felt much more... Christmas-y, for lack of a better word. Also, there's no religion talk in this at all. It's all about elves and magic and all that stuff.

There are a couple of darker moments (like a troll's head exploding and another character who dies) and some toilet humour which isn't my favourite, but to each their own with humour. It's a very British sort of humour, I think, as are the illustrations. I looked at them before I started reading and went, "I bet this is a British illustrator." And I was right! They just have a slightly different tone, or something. But they're really cool, a little darker and less cute than you'd expect, and that's interesting.

I really liked that Nikolas wasn't the most perfect kid ever. He struggled and gave up at times, and I really liked him. The voice is really lively, it's fun to read, and I enjoyed this one a lot. This one is probably my favourite of the lot so far.

On to the next!

Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story by R. L. Stine

Published: September 13th, 2016 by Feiwel and Friends
Genre: MG Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 185 plus a "people who worked on this book" page.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Rick Scroogeman hates Christmas. He can't stand the carols and the pageants. He can't stand the lights and the mistletoe. But what he hates the most is having to watch the old movie A Christmas Carol every year at school. Since his name is Scroogeman, all of his classmates start calling him Scrooge. And he hates being called Scrooge.

But everything starts to change when three ghosts visit him. At first, he thinks it's a dream. But then he realizes that it might be a nightmare. A nightmare that could become real.

Thoughts: This is basically a Goosebumps Christmas book. Read any Goosebumps books lately? I have. This is pretty much that. The writing is basically the same, it has the same cliffhangers on every single chapter, the same kind of ending, the same level of "this is not really scary". And I would not go so far as to say this is a good book.

But it's a whole lot of fun. It's a fun riff on a Christmas Carol and I think selective readers might be drawn towards it the way they are to Goosebumps books. Also, I could see this being a lot of fun to read actually at Christmas, especially if you're feeling a little sick of everything being cheerful and nice and a little too jolly.

Like I said, not amazing, but it was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be - Christmas Goosebumps. Not the best thing I've ever read, but it was indeed fun.

And I think that's it! How do you guys feel about this post?

Peace and sugar cookies,

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