When Santa Was a Baby, by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Geneviève Godbout (2015)
If you like to read aloud to children, this is a good one for getting to exercise your vocal talents!
Santa’s parents fawn over him much like any other parents do, but even they are a little taken aback when, instead of the giggle or coo they expected from such a “soft and round and cuddly” baby, they hear a windows-rattling, “HO, HO, HO!” Still, they admire his strong, unique voice and many of his other idiosyncrasies: his devotion to the color red, his regifting of all his birthday presents, his request for a not-quite-a-horse (“like a horse, except it had horns and could pull a flying sled”), the strange names of his hamsters and the fact that he trains them to pull a miniature sled, and his love of the cold. While he doesn’t always fit in with others his age, his parents think he is wonderful, and it turns out that he is: he “follow[s] his childhood dreams” and becomes the Santa that is beloved around he world.
The illustrations in this book have a very vintage feel, yet they are funny and engaging, and children familiar with Santa will recognize his childhood habits as precursors of his Christmas duties. (BoyChild and GirlChild did, and we don’t spend a lot of time talking about Santa!) His parents ponder what his behaviors might mean, and several recognizable variants of lines from the Clement Moore poem work their way into their musings (“calling them by name,” “covered in ashes and soot,” “bowls full of jelly,” etc.). It’s clear how much they adore their little offspring, so it might be a great gateway to reminding your children that they are unique and loved, too! While entirely cute on its own, it might be fun to pair a good, lively read-aloud of this book with a version of The Night Before Christmas; it’s your call whether to read it beforehand to give your listeners some background knowledge or to read it afterwards for some “aha” moments! Particularly good for a read-aloud with children (probably preschool to middle elementary) who are familiar with the standard American version of Santa.