Santa Mouse and the Ratdeer, by Thacher Hurd (1998)
GirlChild says she’s read this one before, but I certainly don’t remember it!
A mouse family is trimming the tree on Christmas Eve, and things aren’t going particularly well for Rosie, so her father has her come to help finish up the cookies for Santa Mouse. Meanwhile, Santa Mouse is having a hard time getting going for his trip; he can’t find anything, the ratdeer are complaining, and the sleigh should have been repaired months ago! Still, he has to get going, and he’s in a bad mood about it all. The snow is blowing hard as he starts off, the wind whips his map out of his hands, and his lunch box and thermos fall right out of the sleigh…then the sleigh starts to malfunction and crash-lands in the North Woods. His ratdeer desert him, and he is left alone, cold, and hungry in the forest. Unaware of all that’s happening, Rosie is constructing a snowman to point Santa Mouse to her home before she goes to bed. She wakes in the night when she hears a scratching at the door, and she finds the cold, lost ratdeer right outside. She can’t help them find the beach (there isn’t one nearby), but she offers them cookies, hot chocolate, and a toasty fire. A couple of the ratdeer go in search of Santa Mouse to bring him in, too. Rosie treats them all to a pleasant time of jokes, cookies, and hot chocolate by the fire, and Santa Mouse, his good humor restored, goes to repair the sleigh. He then loads all the gifts except for one large one for Rosie, and she finds his missing map in the snow. Then Santa Mouse is off! In the morning as they open gifts, Rosie doesn’t mention anything to her parents about the midnight visitors, and when they ask about the mess of hot chocolate mugs and the Rosie-sized sleigh gift she opens, she just smiles. The story ends with a poem called “Mouse Prayer at Christmas” (which ends, “Sing for joy, sing for good cheer, sing for Santa and his ridiculous ratdeer”) and the knock-knock joke that Santa Mouse tells at Rosie’s fireside.
While it wouldn’t have to have rodent characters to be a story (after all, Santa’s sleigh breaking down has happened in Christmas books and movies before now!), it certainly ramps up the silliness factor to have antlers strapped to the heads of flying rats! There were a couple times when I was able to pause and let BoyChild predict what would happen next (when Rosie is reeeeaching to put the star on the tree and when Santa Mouse takes off in all his consternation), and his guesses were pretty accurate. He also loved the speech bubbles for the aggravated ratdeer. While I wouldn’t rush out to purchase this text (unless your child has an uncommon love of mice and silliness), it’s a fun one to read together, so you could always check your library shelves! (While I thought that I knew this author’s works, it turns out I was only familiar with his name…and that only because of his mother, Edith Thacher Hurd!)