cover image When Santa Fell to Earth

When Santa Fell to Earth

Cornelia Funke, , illus. by Paul Howard, trans. by Oliver G. Latsch. . Scholastic/Chicken House, $15.99 (164pp) ISBN 978-0-439-78204-3

Funke's (Inkheart ) reinvention of the Santa myth involves foul-mouthed elves, invisible reindeer and angels who sew, bake, cobble boots and collect children's dreams for Niklas Goodfellow, the last real Santa. After Goodfellow's caravan plummets to the earth during a thunderstorm, a kind boy named Ben, with nasty parents and a self-esteem problem, is bullied into knocking on the caravan's door. He learns Goodfellow is in grave danger from Gerold Goblynch, a Santa who's crossed over to the dark side, embracing a commercialized Christmas and sending the reindeer to the meat-packing plant. The wild explanations of Santa's operations and the scatological humor may appeal to kids who no longer believe, but younger children may be horrified at reindeer turned into salami, or frightened by Goblynch's giant Nutcracker henchmen. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)