About the Holiday
For those who celebrate Christmas, Santa Claus’s visit is eagerly anticipated. Kids and adults alike all know about Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, his stable of magic reindeer, and his nighttime ride, but how did Santa become…well…Santa? You’ll find out in today’s book!
Tundra Books sent me a copy of When Santa was a Baby for review consideration. All opinions are my own.
When Santa Was a Baby
Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout
When Santa was a baby his parents loved his merry dimples and his “‘little nose…like a cherry,’” and when they tickled his tiny toes, expecting a gurgle or coo, they heard a booming “‘HO, HO, HO!’” As he grew older and learned his colors, Santa developed a distinct preference for red, so the “‘dandy blue pajamas from Aunt Mable’” went back in the drawer. “‘Maybe he’ll be a firefighter,’” said his mom.
On his birthday, Santa had fun opening a passel of presents, including a toy firetruck from mom and dad, toys from Grandma and Uncle Ned, and “yellow pajamas from Aunt Mable.” But after he’d opened them, he wrapped them up again and gave them away to other children. On his next birthday, Santa asked for a pet that looked like a horse “that had horns and could pull a flying sled.” His parents weren’t sure about all this, so they got Santa a hamster, who soon had eight babies that loved pulling the matchbox full of little toys that Santa hitched them to. Santa’s dad though it was “‘extraordinary,’” and his mom said, “‘He’s so creative!’”
Santa was extraordinary in lots of other ways too. His curiosity for the cold blast from the refrigerator and the sooty chimney led his proud parents to think he might grow up to be a scientist. Santa had a best friend named Eldred, and together they loved to make toys and other things. As a teenager, he “knew his own mind” and even though “he didn’t always fit in with the crowd,” the other kids liked him, and, of course, “his parents thought he was wonderful.”
Now Santa is all grown up and has “followed his childhood dreams.” He has a crew of elves, led by Eldred, to make toys and he finally has the reindeer he always wanted. On Christmas Eve as he flies around the world, his parents “listen for his sleigh bells. They wave and blow kisses as Santa dips low over their house.” It’s just what they “always thought he’d do.”
Linda Bailey’s gentle, humorous tale of Santa Claus’ origins in a little boy who always knew who he was and followed his heart will delight children of all ages. With a sprinkling of descriptions about Santa that echo Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, Bailey’s storytelling fits nicely into the traditional image of Santa while revealing while answering kids’ questions about his generosity, the elves, his reindeer, and his North Pole home. Adults will appreciate the support Santa’s bemused parents show as their child grows up and their pride in the man their son is. Underlying Bailey’s story about Santa is an uplifting reminder for all kids to embrace who they are and to follow their dreams.
Geneviève Godbout’s slightly gauzy illustrations rendered in muted browns, greens, and golds punctuated with red bridge the past and the present with rustic details and universal hair and clothing styles, adorable hamster pets, and Christmas traditions. Children will giggle at the booming “Ho, Ho, Ho!” that erupts from baby Santa and the image of him standing naked (except for one red sock) in front of the open refrigerator with a fan blowing and a popsicle waiting on the table. Little readers will be happy to see that young Santa had an elf friend, who was equally comfortable being himself while wearing green and long, pointy-toed socks. Godbout’s images of the grown Santa at the North Pole and flying in his sleigh on Christmas Eve close out the story in a cheery and satisfying way.
Charming from beginning to end, When Santa Was a Baby would be an often-asked-for addition to Christmas story times from year to year and is highly recommended for home and library collections.
Ages Preschool and Up
Tundra Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1770495562 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1101919163 (Board Book)
Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.
To learn more about Geneviève Godbout, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Get Ready for Christmas Activity
These plastic ornaments swirled with colorful nail polish make eye-catching decorations for your tree. Make some to give to friends too!
- Plastic ornaments, available at craft stores
- Nail polish in various colors
- Plastic bowl or container, deep enough to dip the ornament into the water
- Drying stand – I used a clear, plastic egg carton, or string for hanging ornaments to dry
Fill the plastic container with warm to hot water
- Using two or three colors, gently “paint” the water with the nail polish, using the brush or a toothpick in dots and swirls
- Slowly dip the plastic ornament into the water and turn it to pick up the nail polish floating on the top of the water
- To dry, place the ornament on a stand or hang with a paper plate, wax paper, or other paper to catch drips
You can find When Santa Was a Baby at these booksellers
Picture Book Review