Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guess Who's Coming to Santa's for Dinner? by Tomie DePaola

Guess Who's Coming to Santa's for Dinner? by Tomie DePaola

Rating: 5 stars

Do you know of anyone who dreads having everyone--I mean everyone--over for dinner?  I know a few...

Tomie DePaola has created a gem of a book about a dinner party at the home of one of the most famous couples around: Mr and Mrs Claus.  Some weeks before Christmas, Santa realizes "it's been a while," so he's going to invite his family over for Christmas.

"Oh, my," Mrs. C said.  "Are you sure?"

"Oh, yes," Santa said.  "I'm sure."

"All right, then.  Make a list of who you want me to ask."  (What a team player that Mrs. C is!  My words, not Tomie DePaola's.)

Santa uses his photo album to remember everyone (wow, it's really been a while), and the invitations go out.  The chaos of a huge family get-together starts bubbling much too early, when Aunt Astrid arrives while Mrs. C is still in her pajamas.  With less text and more cartoon-like illustrations, DePaola shows the reader snapshots of a typical huge family gathering.  (Or at least typical in my fun Polish family.)  Here's a bit of what happens...

Kids start misbehaving the moment they walk in the door while their parents happily ignore them from the recliner.  A friendly (or not?) debate breaks out about how to cook a special family treat.  Kids start complaining about what they got or didn't get for Christmas.  Those with good manners stare aghast at those with bad manners.  The family ham tries to keep the spotlight on her at all times.  Some kids are thrilled with a kids' table while others are distraught.

But the best is Cousin Ulla.  ("It's Ulla!  Watch your teeth!" says Aunt Astrid.)  In every picture, Cousin Ulla is stuffing something into her small-but-hey-how'd-it-get-that-big bag.  For example: she swipes a poinsettia from the hallway, kidnaps Joseph from the Nativity Scene, steals umbrellas from the coat closet, and snatches a wreath from the door on her way out.

It's really laugh-out-loud funny!

The best part?  This isn't your family!  You get to sit back and turn the pages and not participate in the madness.  You can simply appreciate the ridiculousness of the interactions and the very happy ending: the get-together has been crazy, but wonderful.

(And hopefully your family get-together--be it big or small--is crazy and wonderful, too.)

Thanks for another great recommendation, Julia!

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