rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is really a fine children's book. Like any good children's literature, it is equally enjoyable for adults. Placing Santa Claus firmly in the pagan world of fairies, woodland spirits, and other such folktale powers, Baum reminds us that Santa - despite the relation to the Christian St. Nick - is clearly an embodiment of the pagan celebration of joy, light, and life that is and has always been a massive part of Christmas.
The book presents a very admirable Santa Claus and is highly original. Most interesting, Baum's Santa Claus is a champion of children because they are helpless and particularly poor children because they are in need. This is why Santa gives away toys for free, to ease the hard burdens of life on the little ones. I find this a healthy antidote to the CEO-like Santa we see in contemporary films, who runs a factory with assembly lines, and probably denies the Elves workman's comp and health insurance! Baum's Santa is a true champion of the downtrodden. A Folk-hero, who is no mere giver of trinkets, but a champion of social justice, an enemy of exploitation, and a hardened ally of the poor and suffering.
The only reason I can't give this book 5 stars is that it is infused with the early 20th century fascinating with fairies, which comes off today as rather odd. And the book has numerous odd elements. Even worse, Baum does not use the reindeer names we know so well, but odd names like "Flossie" and "Glossie." AND THEY DON'T EVEN FLY!!!
Still, I recommend this book for the Holidays. Should I ever have children, I will one day read it to them!
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