Thursday, December 20, 2007

On the Job Training: How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky

Stephen Krensky's How Santa Got His Job sets out to answer one of the mysteries of the holiday season: how did Santa get to be Santa anyway?

Well, Santa wasn't always chubby and plump and jolly and bearded. Once he was an eager red-haired young man in his best tweed sports jacket, pounding the pavement in search of his first job. Because he prefers active, outdoor work, he first takes a job as a chimney sweep, where he proves so adept at twisting his way down and up chimneys that everyone believes he is too clean to be doing any work. Fired from that job, he quickly goes to work for the Post Office. He loves delivering packages to people, but hates midday traffic snarls, so he begins doing most of his deliveries late at night, to the displeasure of his sleeping customers.

Still, Santa has learned that he likes to work the night shift, so he tries a job as a cook in an all-night diner. Unfortunately, tasting his own wares leads to a precipitous weight gain, so Santa resigns to find a job that will give him a bit more exercise. Working as an assistant zookeeper is great, but S.C. loves caring for the reindeer perhaps a bit too much.

Laid off for neglecting the other animals, Santa leaves the zoo (followed by an entourage of adoring reindeer) to take a job being shot out of a cannon in the circus. Santa likes the red costume, and he is so thrilled to be flying through the air that he can't help laughing "Ho, Ho, Ho" through the whole trajectory. Unfortunately, the laughter doesn't add much to the supposedly chilling, thrilling suspense of the act, and Santa once more finds himself among the unemployed.

Luckily, some fans (who happen to be toy-making elves) stop by for an autograph and invite him to eat dinner at their country workshop. When Santa notices that their well-made toys were beginning to pile up around the place, he offers to put his job experience to work delivering the toys to children, and the elves hire him on the spot.

And the rest, as we say, is legend. Oh, it takes Santa a while to figure out that reindeer are better than polar bears at sleigh-pulling, but soon Santa settles himself into what looks like a real career move as he puts all the hard-earned skills on his resume' to work and follows his bliss.

Krensky and illustrator S. D. Schindler also have a worthy sequel in their How Santa Lost His Job, in which Elf Murkle's time and motion study of Santa leads him to break out his CAD skills to design "The Deliverator," a robotic expediter to replace the all-to-human (and cookie-loving) Santa Claus. S. D. Schindler's illustrations are charmingly detailed as he depicts our beloved saint's checkered employment history in these outside-the-(gift)box Santa stories.

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