Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas: A (Christmas in July) Picture Book Review

Jeannette Clause Saves Christmas coverIt was the night before Christmas and Santa was sick. He sneezed, he coughed, he groaned, he moaned. He sniffled and he blew.

And there was no way his daughter, Jeannette, was letting Santa out in the sleigh that night. Jumping jingle bells, if Santa could do it, so could she. Sure, the reindeer are tricky and none too fond of their work. But Jeannette was a Claus and it was Christmas. This was kind of her thing.

But when the sleigh is still more than half full of presents, the reindeer decide to jump ship and Jeannette is stranded with a big sleigh and no one to pull it. Unless a few stray cats and dogs can help Jeannette to turn a really bad Christmas Eve into a really successful one without the help of those pesky reindeer in Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas (October 2010) by Douglas Rees, illustrated by Olivier Latyk.

I’m a fan, first and foremost, of traditional Christmas stories. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is an annual favorite. As far as reimagined¬† (or even slightly fractured) Christmas stories go, this is a fun one. Latyk’s illustrations–sketched in pencil and then rendered in Photoshop–are original and provide a unique vision of iconic holiday images including the jolly man himself and, of course, the reindeer.

Rees’ story is also a new take on the holiday theme. Jeannette is a winner and the text lends itself to reading aloud with natural pauses and good pacing. The premise isn’t my favorite–misanthropic reindeer feel . . . odd (and they’re really mean!)–but it is a fun twist for anyone looking to go beyond the familiar songs and stories with their holiday reading. Of course, more astute readers will be left to ask, where’s Rudolph when you really need him?

*This book was received for review at Simon and Schuster’s Fall 2010 preview in May.*