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A Boy Called Christmas Hardcover – November 1, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—This lively British import recounts the adventures of young Nicholas, who will grow up to become Father Christmas, otherwise known as Santa Claus to American children. Born on Christmas Day, Nicholas leads a life of hardship in a remote, ramshackle cabin with his good-hearted father. When his father goes in search of Elfhelm (and a chance at a great monetary reward), Nicholas is left alone with his cruel aunt Carlotta. After enduring abuse and neglect, the boy sets off on his own to find his father and the mythical land of the elves. The fairy-tale atmosphere aptly sets the stage for magic and mischief, including flying reindeer, exploding trolls, a truth pixie, and a trusty mouse companion. Nicholas eventually changes the course of Elfhelm history, saving it from a regime of unhappiness, and ultimately discovers his true calling as a giver of gifts. Mould's quirky yet charming black-and-white drawings are a perfect complement to the sometimes snarky text. VERDICT There's plenty to please fans of Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, and Adam Gidwitz: offbeat humor with the ultimate satisfaction of overcoming the impossible, helping humanity, and achieving one's dreams. A popular choice for Christmas or year round.—Madeline Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
"Irresistibly readable. Destined to become a Christmas and anytime-before-or-after-Christmas classic!" --Chris Grabenstein, New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
"Like stockings hung by the fire, this spellbinding opus may well become a yuletide tradition." —Kirkus, Starred review
"Award-winning British author Matt Haig (To Be a Cat) writes with warmth, wit and irreverence." —Shelf Awareness, Starred review
"Matt Haig has an empathy for the human condition, the light and the dark of it, and he uses the full palette to build his excellent stories.”—Neil Gaiman, Newbery-winning author of The Graveyard Book
"The definitive (and funny) history of Ho, ho, ho! My children loved it." —Yann Martel, bestselling author of Life of Pi
"Humorous and heartfelt, A Boy Called Christmas will grow your heart three sizes and make you believe in magic." --Liesl Shurtliff, New York Times bestselling author of Rump
"The most evergreen, immortal Christmas story to be published for decades. Future generations will receive the same comfort and joy from A Boy Called Christmas that they derive from mince pies, snowmen and creamy liqueurs." --Stephen Fry
"Matt Haig puts the Happy back into Christmas." --Jeanette Winterson
"A new festive classic. Funny, sad and brilliant. It turns out we only knew half the story." --Simon Mayo, BBC
"An instant Christmas classic... Nikolas is a terrific character, clearly the offspring of Gerda from The Snow Queen and Roald Dahl's Charlie Bucket." --The Guardian
"Like enjoying the warmth of a good fire on a cold day . . . perfect for Christmas is every way." --The Independent
Top customer reviews
Some really bad things happen to young Nikolas, yet he continues to hold on to his kindness and hope. That is what this charming little story about Father Christmas is about. Kindness. Sure, we get some action, really funny moments, and AHA moments when portions of the well known story of Father Christmas are woven into this story, but at the core it's all about Nikolas never losing hope and his determination to be kind. This is such a good story and it is so well presented that I feel it is destined to become a Christmas classic.
A spoilery caution for sensitive young readers:
Parents are lost in this tale, kids mistreated, and troll heads explode (creating a bit of a mess). It turns out that Blitzen likes to pee on people when he's flying over villages, and fathers can sometimes disappoint you even when you love them a lot.
The almost Lemony Snicket-like narrative voice immediately draws the reader in and pages turn at a fast rate. It was hard for me to put this book down and I can't wait to recommend it to library patrons ages 9 to 99.
The son of a poor woodcutter, Nikolas has a hard life, but he never complains. Living in the second-smallest cottage in Finland, he spends his time day dreaming of magical things - pixies and elves. His love and concern for his father are real; Nikolas considers his father’s bedtime story the best part of his day. A small, brown mouse Miika, who dreams of cheeses of all types and forms, often sneaks into the cottage to share in hearing these stories.
When the hunter, Anders, convinces Nikolas’ father to join a band of men seeking to prove the existence of Elfhelm and reap a large reward from King Frederick, Aunt Carlotta comes to care for Nikolas. However, her cruelty in forcing Nikolas to sleep outside and in failing to give him enough to eat result in his running away to find his father. Facing danger and bitter cold, Nikolas aids the reindeer Blitzen, removing one of Anders’ arrows from Blitzen’s leg. The two succumb to the frigid cold; Father Topo and his granddaughter Little Noosh, two elves, rescue them and take them to Elfhelm. Angered because humans have kidnapped an elf child, Father Vodol, the head elf and owner of the “Daily Snow” imprisons Nikolas and Miika. Sharing their cell, Nikolas meets Sebastian, a troll, and a Truth Pixie, who delights in using hewlip to make other people’s heads explode.
A daring escape allows Nikolas and Miika to track Joel, Nikolas’ father, and the kidnappers. After rescuing the elf child and returning him to Elfhelm, Nikolas makes the decision to remain there. The balance of “A Boy Called Christmas” follows Nikolas’ growth and integration into Elfhelm society, the creation of Santa’s workshop, and the legend of Santa Claus and his gift giving.
Chris Mould’s illustrations complement the text of “A Boy Called Christmas” and are delightful, in and of themselves. They remind me of drawings by Charles Addams and of illustrations in some of the Neil Gaiman books. Mould’s drawings capture the spirit of the book, the quirky nature of some of the characters, and the development of Santa Claus’ story.
While Matt Haig’s story is filled with humor and wonderful characters, it also reminds young readers that the love of family and caring for others is more important than material goods. Some bizarre characters – the Truth Pixie who likes to make heads explode – and some “potty” humor – while flying, Blitzen “wee’s” on those she dislikes – will appeal to many readers in the target group. This is a wonderful novel telling of the Santa Claus legend for youngsters, who no longer “believe”, and for those who are not-so-young but still enjoy a humorous, fun-to-read book about the origins of Santa Claus.
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