HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Year Without a Santa Claus
Author: Phyllis McGinley
Illustrator: John Manders
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children, republished in 2010
Related website: http://www.marshallcavendish.us/kids (publisher)
Language level: 1 (the euphemistic “gosh” appears once)
(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 6-8
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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McGInley, Phyllis. The Year Without a Santa Claus (originally published in 1956; republished in 1957 by HarperCollins Children’s; new edition published in 2010 by Marshall Cavendish Children, a division of Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 99 White Plains Rd., Tarrytown, NY 10591). What would happen if Santa Claus decided not to make his rounds one year? Through the years our boys, and my wife, have enjoyed watching the 1974 Rankin/Bass stop motion animated television special The Year Without a Santa Claus narrated by Shirley Booth as Mrs. Claus with Santa Claus voiced by Mickey Rooney. However, I didn’t know this until recently, but the story is based on a 1956 Phyllis McGinley book of the same name.
Of course, all this happened “long ago before you were living.” Santa wakes up on the wrong side of the bed with a crick in his neck, a cold in his nose, and aches in his fingers and all ten toes. So he decides to take his first vacation in one thousand years. The Elves, the reindeer, the Gnomes, and, most of all, the children around the world are upset when they find out. Most give way to tears, but then one six-year old boy named Ignatius Thistlewhite comes to Santa’s rescue, and at his suggestion children everywhere band together to give Santa a Christmas he’ll never forget! What is their plan? And will it work?
The story, which is a little long for most traditional story times but could be used as a bedtime read aloud, is told in a flowing rhyme, originally illustrated by Kurt Werth. This new edition has jolly illustrations with gouache and pencil cartoon artwork by John Manders that emphasize the humor of the text. It is a cute Christmas tale. Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978), who was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her book Times Three, the first to be awarded the poetry prize for a collection of light verse, produced a sequel of sorts, How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas (1963).