THE AUTHOR: Judi Barrett, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Did you know that Santa’s parents’ names were Peter and Barbara Claus? Judi Barrett, the author of “Santa from Cincinnati,” presents Santa’s birth announcement, which includes the name of his parents, his birthday (on Dec. 25, of course), and that he weighed 7 pounds and 2 ounces.
I had the opportunity to meet Kevin Hawkes, the illustrator of this book, earlier in the year, and I found him to be delightful. He talked about how he loves to use vibrant colors in his drawings and how he tries to look at things from different perspectives. His promo from the book says that he lives in southern Maine, where he loves to be outdoors. He has illustrated more than 35 acclaimed picture and chapter books.
Our author you already know. She is the author of the infamous “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” which I must have read to my own children hundreds of times, as well as “Pickles to Pittsburgh,” “Never Take A Shark to the Dentist” and “Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing.” She currently teaches art to kindergarten students in Brooklyn, N.Y., and always loves the presents that Santa brings her.
“Santa from Cincinnati” is an adorable story of Santa from babyhood to the time he meets his wife, Mrs. Claus, and settles down at his workshop. This would be an ideal book to purchase and to read to your child during the Christmas holidays. Children will love learning how Santa got his name, how a pillowcase came to play an important role in his life, and how he initially became interested in using reindeer for his travel.
Hawkes really outdoes himself on the drawings. Not only do they beautifully illustrate what is going on in the story, they do it in an unusual way so that you see a lot more than just what you’d expect. The story and the illustrations together make for a brilliant book!
You get a rare look at Santa as a baby in the nursery, and then when he first started to work on having a “funny” beard while he was in kindergarten. He has 15 classmates who are all in different states of awe over his beard, and you can spend a lot of time studying their attitudes and expressions about the entire situation. The children in the photo are stylish, and your own children will be able to identify with their feelings too. They may even want to experiment on their own, or with your help, making a Santa beard for themselves. This would make a great Christmas activity and create a wonderful memory for years to come.
As Santa grows up, his parents encourage him to have more interests than just making toys. So a two-page spread of hilarious illustrations shows Santa making his first 25 cents, playing baseball (you’ll have to read to see which position he played), and receiving his report card showing that he always got his homework done too.
I don’t know about y’all, but as our children grew up we felt that right before Christmas was an excellent time to clean out the closets — not only of gently worn clothing, but of toys in which the children had lost interest, but which were still in excellent shape. We always felt that there were other children who would enjoy these toys, so we bagged them up and took them either to the Salvation Army Store, to Goodwill or to other charities around town. I believe that seeing how Santa handled himself with his toys might make this experience easier for your children, and they could learn the art of giving to others early in life.
And of course the book shows Santa receiving thousands upon thousands of letters. This would be a wonderful time to help your child write their personal letter to Santa, and to get it to the North Pole in time for Santa’s big ride on Dec. 24.
The story also reminds the children of the nice and the naughty list. With all the excitement at this time of the year, it is especially important to remember being kind and nice to everyone, so you stay on Santa’s good side.
Without a doubt, I can easily and happily give “Santa from Cincinnati” 4.5 out of 5 tiaras. It is not only a beautifully written story, but an outstandingly illustrated one. Get it early and enjoy reading it every night during this blessed season. It is so much fun experiencing Christmas through your children’s eyes. Enjoy and cherish every second; they grow up so fast!
Buice, a Carrollton resident, writes a weekly book review for the Times-Georgian. anitabook.com