HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Miracle on 34th Street
Author: Valentine Davies
Cover Illustrator: Shane Rebenschied
Publisher: Sandpiper, reprinted in 2010
Related website: www.hmhbooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Davies, Valentine. Miracle on 34th Street (originally published in 1947 by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation; republished in 2001 by Sandpiper, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Ave., New York City, NY 10003). Everyone who has ever seen the original 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street (we don’t like the remakes) knows the basic plot of this book. Kris Kringle is an elderly gentleman who lives at the Maplewood Home for the Aged in New York City, NY. When the Santa hired for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade shows up drunk, Doris Walker, the somewhat frosty, divorced Personnel Director at Macy’s, hires Kris to take his place, and Mr. Shellhammer, Head of the Toy Department, suggests that she keep Kris for the permanent job of Santa at Macy’s Department Store on 34th St., where he creates a lot of good will which even owner R. H. Macy notices.
Kris even affects Doris’s daughter, six-year-old Susan, who has been brought up by her disillusioned mother to be as matter-of-fact as herself, and their neighbor and Doris’s would-be boyfriend Fred Gailey, a lawyer with whom Kris moves in. Everything is going well until people begin to find out that Kris actually believes that he is the real Santa Claus. So the Macy’s company psychologist, Albert Sawyer, who dislikes Santa Claus anyway, decides to have Kris committed to Bellevue insane asylum and does so secretly without Doris’s knowledge. When he learns about it, Fred petitions for a court hearing to decide Kris’s sanity and determines to have him declared sane. What will happen in court? And how will Susan react? Of course, those who have watched the film know the answer to those questions.
Some people have complained that this is a mere “novelization” of the movie. Sometimes an existing book is made into a movie, and sometimes an existing movie is “novelized” into a book. What happened in the case of Miracle on 34th Street is not so clear. Author Valentine Davies (1905-1961) was a Hollywood screenwriter, but if I understand it correctly, he first wrote it in story form around 1944, then later submitted it to Twentieth Century-Fox, where it was turned into a film. It was decided to publish a book to coincide with the release of the film, so Davies reworked his story, fleshing it out with material from the screenplay. There are some noticeable differences between the movie and the book, but the basic plot is the same. The only objectionable items in the novel are one use of the “d” word, one appearance of the term “Good Lord” as an interjection, and the fact that Fred smokes a pipe. Otherwise, it is a really cute story.