When Santa Fell To Earth by Cornelia Funke
This is a completely adorable Christmas story. Niklaus Goodfellow, the last of the real Santas, has crash landed when his invisible reindeer ran off in search of marzipan. His caravan is now parked on a suburban street and Niklaus is in danger. As the last real Santa Claus, he is being hunted by an evil Santa who has commercialized Christmas and has outlawed all the old magical ways. But Niklaus has angels and elves by his side and with the help of two children who still believe, he just might be able to perform some Christmas miracles.
Those children, Ben and Charlotte, are desperately in need of some cheer. Ben struggles in school and is often at the mercy of a bully. Charlotte is lonely. Ben discovers the caravan first (it’s bigger on the inside – is Funke a Dr. Who fan?) and meets Charlotte through Niklaus. Together they must help Niklaus before he’s captured and turned into a chocolate Santa.
Much easier than Funke’s complicated and dark Inkheart series, this could be read independently by many third graders and would be enjoyable as a read aloud even for younger children. I think your main difficulty with little ones would be that some would be bothered by the variations to the Santa myth (caravan vs. sleigh, multiple Santas) whereas older children, even sometimes those who still believe, are more open this. I loved its “Christmas is magical” message, the detail that went into creating this particular Santa’s world and the portrayal of Ben as a sensitive athletic boy who struggles because of shyness and lack of academic success. My only complaint is that we don’t get to know Charlotte very well, which is too bad, in part because Funke is excellent at creating strong, interesting female characters, so the lack of dimension/backstory on Charlotte is disappointing.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A boy and a girl are friends, there is absolutely nothing romantic or sexual about their friendship, however they are teased about it and the girl is referred to as his girlfriend. A little girl gives a Santa a kiss.
Profanity – The elves are swearing; at first no words are reported and then we read “booger-burps”, “smelly goblin farts”, and “reindeer-poo” which is sort of an excellent type of swearing. “blasted,” “stinking,” “steaming reindeer droppings,” “stupid,” “numbskull,” “darn it,” “rotten pig,”
Death, Violence and Gore – A ne’er do well Santa turned reindeer into salami. Elves are disappeared – no one knows what happened to them. Santas are disappeared too. There’s a risk of a Santa being turned into a chocolate Santa.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.