Santa Claus and the Three Bears: Maria Modugno
November 29, 2013
Book: Santa Claus and the Three Bears
Author: Maria Modugno
Illustrator: Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer
Age Range: 3-8
Santa Claus and the Three Bears by Maria Modugno is, as you might guess from the title, a Goldilocks retelling in which the role of Goldilocks is played by none other than Santa Claus. Apart from that difference, and a northerly setting, it's pretty much a straight-up version of the story. The porridge is replaced by chocolate pudding, and there are Christmas decorations around the house. Santa apologizes for intruding and breaking Baby Bear's chair. He also leaves presents at the end, unlike that ungrateful Goldilocks. But overall, the rhythms of the story will be familiar to young readers.
I honestly wasn't sure about this blending of Goldilocks and Santa. But it actually works quite well. There's a cozy winter feel to the book, and honestly, Santa is a lot more appealing than Goldilocks any day. My three year old adores this version, and I anticipate reading it many, many times between now and Christmas.
Modugno's text, while it carries the repetition of the original story, is not sing-songy, and uses a bit of moderately advanced vocabulary. Like this:
"Papa bear was bringing in a tree from the forest,
Mama Bear was preparing Christmas pudding,
and Baby Bear was busy getting in the way.
Even though he was a baby, he was still pretty big."
"Meanwhile, Santa had finished delivering presents to everyone in the Southern Hemisphere, and he was halfway through the northern part of the world when his sleigh landed on the roof of the three bears' house."
The watercolor and gouache illustrations by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer are warm without being cloying. The bears are polar bears, and they are in fact pretty big (Mama and Papa are both bigger than Santa). They are quite expressive, too. Their house is lovingly decorated for the holiday, inside and out. There are some nice details, like "Papa", "Mama" and "Baby" written on their bowls, and a cozy patchwork quilt on Baby Bear's bed. My daughter's favorite picture is one that shows Baby Bear "getting in the way" while Mama makes pudding, chocolate all over his face and arms.
Santa Claus and the Three Bears would make a nice addition to anyone's collection of Christmas-themed picture books. The outlines of the story are familiar, of course, but the Christmas details lend variety, and the illustrations stand up well to repeat reads. Recommended!
Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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