Books for believers in Santa, unbelievers and agnostics

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

December 21, 1990|By Donna Peremes

WHETHER YOU HOPE YOUR CHILDRENwill believe in Santa Claus, question his existence or hover between reality and fantasy land, there's a Christmas book out there for your kids.

For those who love to believe, the world of children's holiday literature is their oyster. " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" is probably the classic of this genre.

Those who prefer a pull-no-punches approach, or anyone who just wants a good laugh, might try "Daddy Long Ears," by Robert Kraus (Little Simon, 1989). Daddy Long Ears is a single father, an overworked exhausted rabbit father with 32 bunny children. Not only does Daddy Long Ears buy the Christmas gifts for his 32 little charges, but he works as Santa at the Woodland Department Store.

Daddy Long Ears, while amusing, is definitely not a book for those who want to preserve the fantasy. One unpleasantly surprised parent returned the book to Gordon's Booksellers children's store in the Rotunda, the manager said.

The in-between approach is portrayed in the Caldecott Award winning book, "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg (1985, Houghton Mifflin Co.). A young boy, whose friends tell him that Santa isn't real, wakes up one night and is invited aboard a train headed for the North Pole.

Once there, Santa singles him out for the first gift of the season. The boy chooses a bell, which he loses, but which his sister, Sarah, finds in a little box under the tree Christmas day. Only he and she can hear the bell's jangle, though; his parents are

deaf to it.

The book ends with this thought: "At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe."

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