Book of the week

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum

"Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee? Nurse used to sing of it when I was a child..."

This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I picked it up at a library sale for a quarter, and thought it was one of those finds of the century that one does occasionally discover at sales of this kind. Finding a quirky book from a notable children's author (Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and sundry other Oz books) is like finding a live album recorded in a tiny bar in Memphis by the hugest band you've ever loved. Quite possibly you are the only person in the world who owns this album. Your cool points become astronomical. Paying only a quarter for it is just the cherry.

Unfortunately, the quality of the narrative is piss-poor in this book. The story is just a catalog of all the happy woodland immortals who love Santa Claus from his early boyhood. There is no conflict, no plot, and very little character detail. This is a ninety-eight page weakling of a book, and even at that short length I could not force myself to finish it.

I'd love to see the story of Santa Claus in the hands of a sharp-voiced re-teller of legends like Gregory Maguire, who wrote Wicked. In the hands of Baum it becomes something so cloying that I would not recommend it for even the dullest idiot child.

However, I will totally keep it. Because it's still an awesome find.