Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Auntie Claus

With nearly record high heat indexes and constant rain, I needed a reminder that there is something called winter. So when I was in the library last week, I stopped to check out the books on Christmas. The cover of Auntie Claus drew me in so I dropped it on my stack to check out. And I'm so glad I did. The rest of the book was just as sweet and enjoyable as the cover.

Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera tells the story of the Kringle family who live in New York City. Every year, Auntie Claus disappears on a "business trip" from October until Valentine's Day. One of the younger members of the family, Sophie, is curious about where her aunt goes each year. She's determined to find the secret. So when Auntie isn't looking, Sophie stows away. As most readers have already guessed by now, she finds herself deposited at the North Pole. One of the head elves mistakes Sophie for an elf and puts her to work. She starts in the mail room and finds herself unhappy sorting mail all day. When Santa needs someone to go get the naughty list from the basement (the worst job at the North Pole), Sophie volunteers. She finds her spoiled brother's name on the list, so Sophie makes a choice. She erases her brother's name, and replaces it with her own. The moment her name is signed, Sophie is summoned to Santa's side to help deliver packages. She falls asleep in the sleigh and wakes up Christmas Morning at home, with a very special gift.

Elise Primavera's story is sweet and fun, but with a moral. Adults will not be surprised by Auntie Claus's job, nor by the rest of the family's connection to Christmas, but children will be drawn into the world. Sophie is a great character, half rebel, half sweet caring girl. I loved her curiosity and her spunk. She is spoiled at the beginning of the story but we see her make sacrifices later in the book. We watch her grow. In a way we watch Sophie discover her more adult, mature self. Auntie Claus starts the story with the idiom "it is better to give than to receive" and that is displayed at the end in wonderful form. The moral is not pushed hard but readers will leave with it firmly in their mind. The subtle message fits beautifully with the idea of Sophie growing up. I was actually a bit surprised by the ending of the story but I found it much more satisfying than a more Hollywood-style ending. It is a mature, sensitive, and fitting ending. I left the book with a huge smile.

Primavera's illustration are simply gorgeous. Auntie Claus is elegant in a movie star type of way. Her home, along with Sophie's home, are luxuriously drawn. Everything is rich and elegant. Once Sophie leaves the house and heads to the North Pole, the colors become even more rich. Filled with reds and blues, these gouache and pastel illustrations wrap you in warmth. Sophie is presented very plain compared to her famous aunt and the beautiful world she inhabits and then visits. Primavera gives everything a soft focus, adding to the unreality of the situation. It was a world I loved visiting, with sweet characters and an even better moral. A great book for Christmas and one I'll be adding to my collection.

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