Saturday, December 13, 2008

Surrogate Santa: Santa Duck by David Milgrim

Nicholas Duck had only one day left to find Santa.

"If I don't tell him what I want," he quacked, "it's going to be another year of socks and underwear."

But on his way out of the door to begin the Santa search, Nick discovers a mysterious package on the doorstep. "Whoa, Baby!" he quacks, as he unwraps a perfectly tailored, fur-trimmed Santa jacket and hat.

Heading off into the snowy scene, with a "Jingle Quack, Jingle Quack, Jingle all the Quack!" song on his lips (er, beak), Nicholas promptly meets up with a chicken.

"Santa Duck!" the chicken said, "I've been looking for you everywhere! And I'd like a helicopter and a hot air balloon and a hang glider and a blimp and a....."

Nicholas continues to be somewhat mystified ("Has everyone gone bonkers?") as he meets up with a cat who requests a canary, a trout, and a couple of nice plump hamsters, a turtle who wants, of course, a snazzy, speedy racecar, a squirrel who orders cases and cases of mixed nuts, and a rabbit who demands a football field-sized carrot cake. "Thanks, Santa Duck," they all say.

Nicholas couldn't figure out what was going on. All he could do was scratch his head. When he did, the hat fell off. "Of course," he said, "it must be the hat!"

Nicholas Duck decides to ditch the Santa hat, donating it to a handy cow, who bursts into song: "Jingle Moo, Jingle Moo." "Phew," quacks Nick in relief. But there is no escape from the hat. The cow chases him down and returns the hat. "Too small," complains the cow, demanding a size XL.

There's no escape from everyone's Christmas wish lists either, it seems. Even his kid brother wants to sit on his knee and enumerate his desires. "LEAVE. ME. ALONE!" shouts Nicholas to his followers.

At last he runs into the real Santa, who debriefs Nicholas on everyone's wishes. Santa praises the duck for his excellent recall and hurries away before Nicholas can tell him what he wants for Christmas. "Oh, no! Santa! Santa?" cries Nick.

But back home Nicholas finds a note on his door.

"Dear Santa Duck,
Thank you so much for your help. I couldn't have done it without you. May I count on you again next year?
Gratefully, Santa"

In his new Santa Duck, David Milgrim's humorous text and brightly colored black line drawings are sure to be a hit with young readers. Partly told in straight text and partly in comic thought and speech balloons, this funny story of an unsuspecting St. Nick's surrogate is a welcome addition to the picture books of the Santa Season.

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