4 out of 4 stars
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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be part of Santa Claus’ massive North Pole operation? Ian, CEO, North Pole by Eric Dana Hansen explores this concept. It is a novel in the Young Adult Fiction genre. Ian, an elf, has worked for Santa for many years, but can’t seem to find the right fit among the various functions. He keeps getting transferred whether he or his supervisors make the request. A daydreamer, Ian still cares about doing a good job.
When Ian gets to the Shipping Department, he thinks he has found his niche. In order to do a better job, he researches information about holiday celebrations, as well as the history of Santa Claus and how he is viewed around the world. His close friend Samuel is always available to give advice and answer questions along the way. He even joins the Cultural Studies Support Group, where elves share information they’ve learned. At his first meeting, the teacher informs Ian and several other elves that they have been singled out to become management trainees.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story isn’t too cute or silly, given the subject matter. The plot and details are realistic, at least from the vantage point of a workplace setting. Of course, an employee would want to learn extra information when transferring to a new unit. It’s also natural that Ian would turn to his close friend Samuel for advice. The cultural information about different countries fits well within the storyline. A particular standout is “Ian’s List”, a personal list he compiles of little known facts about Christmas around the world. This book would be a great choice for a class book report or presentation, due to the interesting facts about holiday celebrations and the history of Christmas.
The vivid descriptions of the North Pole and Santa’s well-oiled “machine” give the reader a good sense of the Toy Factory environment. The businesslike atmosphere makes the story seem realistic vs. being a cute, goofy story about Santa’s elves. I particularly liked reading about Ian researching the ways that Christmas is celebrated in different countries. In Sweden, for example, a gnome named “Juletomtem” brings gifts in a sleigh driven by goats.
Ian is a loveable, layered character; he is an earnest, slightly nerdy sort who worries about doing a good job. Samuel and Elise, another management trainee, are also interesting characters who provide suggestions and moral support. Samuel is utilized well as a plot device to explain key “facts”, such as the path Santa takes around the world on Christmas Eve. I like that Ian uses the internet to find information; this shows young readers that the internet is a great research tool. My favorite tidbit Ian discovers is that Charles Dickens considered Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam before choosing the name for Tiny Tim’s character in A Christmas Carol.
The book is by no means a page turner. The factual information slows the pacing at times, but the trivia was so interesting I didn’t mind the slowdown.
The author's easy to understand writing style is appropriate for children and teens. The book is categorized in the Young Adult genre, but I question whether teenagers would be interested in a book about elves. It’s more suitable for children ages 5-12; parents could read the book aloud to younger children. The emphasis on positive work values reinforces to children that it’s good to have a strong work ethic.
There are several grammatical errors through the book, including typos (“infirm” vs. “inform”), incorrect word usage (“there daughter” vs. “their daughter”), missing or extra commas, and missing words (“a”). The errors, while noticeable, were not a major distraction.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a quirky, office-centered plot, although I think children and younger teens are the target audience. The story is unique and Ian is a very likeable, relatable character. Did I just say a character in a Santa’s Toy Factory story is relatable? That just goes to show you what a good writer the author is. I became so absorbed in the story that it seemed like Santa’s elves were regular employees in an office. I wonder if I should get my head examined.
Ian, CEO, North Pole
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