Real Santa

Author: William Hazelgrove

Published By: Koehler Books Publishing

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I was perusing sites for new holiday books and what should I find, but a fictional book starring Santa Claus.  With a cute premise and a warm feeling in my heart thanks to this very special time of the year, I decided to check out Real Santa by William Hazelgrove and find out if it's as worthy of film adaptation as its many fans attest.

                It all begins with nine-year-old Megan Kronenfeldt and the question posed to her teacher, Mrs. Worthington, about the issue of global warming as it relates to Santa Claus.  According to Mrs. Worthington, Santa Claus simply could not survive the incredibly harsh conditions of the North Pole.  In fact, Mrs. Worthington made it sound as if she didn't believe in Santa Claus at all.  Megan is sure that Santa truly exists, even if her friends don't think so.  Determined to prove he's real, Megan decides she is going to stay up on Christmas Eve, film Santa's arrival and place it up on YouTube as proof of the jolly old man's existence.

                Megan's father, George, is shocked that his little girl is questioning the existence of Santa Claus.  In a world that is devoid of magic, that looks down upon dreamers, that is as harsh an existence for some as living in the North Pole, George believes that kids should be allowed to hold on to the magic of Santa Claus for as long as they can.  George is all to familiar with the harsh realities of adult life.  His relationship with his children from his first marriage is extremely strained...and they learned about Santa at way too early an age.  Not to mention that George has just been fired from his well-paying job as an engineer.

                George decides that he is going to ensure Megan's belief lasts a little longer, even if it means he has to go in debt to do it.  His own belief in Santa Claus was taken away at just the same age as Megan is now and George is determined that it won't happen to her.  So, George, with the help of his father, designs a couple of ramps that would be able to stand the weight of a sleigh and nine reindeer and bolsters the strength of the roof.  His plan?  To become Santa for Megan, riding his sleigh with nine reindeer up onto the roof of his house, climbing down the chimney to deliver the presents and heading back up the chimney to drive the sleigh back off of the roof. 

                To really pull this off, he will need some special effects, so he hires a friend of Megan's mom who knows his way around these things.  Unfortunately, Dean has plans of his own - to use George to finance his own movie, entitled Real Santa, with George as the star.  Add to that the enormity of the task that George has set before himself and you can see why his friends, family and even the people he hires to help him think he's a little crazy. 

                When the night arrives and everything is in place, will George be able to give his daughter a vision of Santa that she is expecting?  With the pressure mounting and the variables at play - stubborn and messy reindeer, the ramp built to the wrong specifications, the Santa suit that's just a tad bit on the pink side, the enormity of the "movie" set and the noise created by it, the slipperiness of the roof and the determination of one nearly retired teacher to prove that Santa does not actually exist - George might need a little more help.

                I can see why people are saying that Real Santa needs to be made into a movie.  This is a heartwarming tale about a father's need to ensure his daughter holds on to the magic of childhood for just a little longer.  Sure, he is doing this for her, but George realizes he is also doing this for himself, to rekindle some of the magic he has lost over the years ever since finding out his father was Santa Claus.  Though folks think he's crazy, they also think that the steps George is willing to take to bring Santa to his daughter are remarkable.  Even his wife, who threatens to leave him when things get out of hand, begins to understand why George would go to such lengths when she remembers how she lost the fantasy of Santa Claus.

                In fact, this story reminds us all to keep the idea...the magic...of Santa Claus in our hearts.  Sure, thanks to Mrs. Worthington, there is some commentary on the meaning of Christmas being lost, the fact that people know more about Santa than they do about the birth of Jesus, the commericalism Christmas brings about.  But that is secondary to the fact that the idea of Santa is more than just receiving gifts.  There's a magic to Santa and his flying reindeer, his ability to get gifts to children despite the lack of chimney, etc.  It's the magic of the idea of this man that is special.  That's the magic we want to hold on to for the rest of our lives, rather than losing it in our youth.

                Hazelgrove's tale is beautifully descriptive - I could actually see every scene in my mind's eye as if it were playing out before me on the television screen.  He writes in a way as to endear his main characters to his audience, making us care whether or not George's plans work out.  And the movement in this tale is fast - I read Real Santa in a couple of days. 

                There is real magic in this tale and I recommend it to any parent out there who has struggled to keep Santa alive for their children.  But this book is not just for parents - Real Santa is for anyone who keeps the idea of the jolly old elf in their hearts, giving to others and keeping the magic alive for everyone, whether they are young or old, man or animal.  Real Santa is a Christmas story that definitely has Christmas classic potential. 


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