What happens when Santa Claus decides that he’s no longer going to punish the bad boys and girls by giving them coal in their stockings, and instead reward the good boys and girls with something extra? Well, the man who has supplied Santa with coal for all these years is suddenly out of a job. That’s the basic premise of the children’s Christmas picture book.
A new take on a Christmas storybook is ‘gold’ to anyone who can devise the right story that will capture the reader’s interest, but I think this story is going to stay in the coal mine.
The biggest problem here is that there really isn’t any story, and Santa and Christmas play almost no role, other than providing a backdrop for our coal miner. What little story there is tends to be confusing, especially to those to whom this book is targeted. The coal miner has a job mining coal for Santa Claus. But he’s getting tired and wants to retire. He tells his trusty donkey that after a couple more hauls, he’ll have saved enough to finally quit the mining business. Then Santa tells him that he’s going to go with rewards instead of punishments and he won’t be buying any more coal. And suddenly the miner seems to be in a panic. Despite planning to retire, he’s now worried about how he’ll get by. When he trips and his bag of coal drops, there a few diamonds mixed in with the coal and the miner realizes that he can now retire. And he still works for Santa but does so by picking shells on a sunny beach to use as gifts for the best good boys and girls.
So…the seashells are a good gift to give the good boys and girls? What about the diamonds? As I was reading through this the first time, I really expected that the diamonds were his way to retiring by selling them to Santa to use for the exceptionally good girls and boys. If seashells are the new stocking-stuffer from Santa, why did we need the pages of the miner discovering diamonds? Why not just send him straight to the beach and have him sell Santa on the idea of the shells? Why muddy the story with the diamonds? Aside from not fitting in well with the story itself, it possibly fuels the incorrect thinking that diamonds are formed from coal.
The story just didn’t catch my interest very early and it doesn’t develop.
The art is fair but not outstanding. There are some pages with very nice, colorful artwork, and other pages have a much more cartoonish look to them. The art serves the story, but it does not rescue it.
Looking for a good book? If you’re looking for a new children’s book for the Christmas holiday, The Christmas Coal Man by Joe Kulka definitely has a unique story, but you may not find it very engaging.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Christmas Coal Man
author: Joe Kulka
artist: Joe Kulka
publisher: Carolrhoda Books
hardcover, 32 pages