Book Break: The Santa of Oz?

A quick review today: as part of my ongoing reading in support of my writing, just before Christmas I checked out L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and began to read it to the family. It’s a delightful book with an essentially pagan take on The Old Man’s origins and his status as a saint. It tracks his rescue from a hungry lioness by the nymph Necile when he was an abandoned infant in the Forest of Burzee (the lioness is later made to nurse the child and becomes his friend); it explains the origins of his unusual powers; the “why” behind the reindeer and little people who help him; and what motivated his mission on behalf of children in the first place.

As you might expect from the creative mind behind the Wizard of Oz, Baum’s story is delightful, quirky, and dark at times, but never too dark for children. His writing “voice” is distinctive, and I found it lent itself quite well to reading aloud. This book is a completely unique take (to my knowledge) on the Santa Claus legend, which is why I wanted to read it…but while it is kid-safe, parents may wish to read it first to see how it jives with the experience of Santa Claus in their own homes. It could also be a fun read for older kids who are beginning to question their beliefs; again, however, parents should peruse it first. The edition I read (a Signet Classics paperback, pictured) included an introduction and an afterword (the latter by a Jewish man who, as a boy, was against the very notion of Santa Claus) that make for interesting reading for adults, but might cause greater confusion for youngsters. All in all, our kids enjoyed it well enough, but afterward, Trevor said, “I think it was just a story he made up.”

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