Thursday, December 16, 2010

'T'is the Season: Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus by Chris Plehal

Christmas was just a few weeks away. but nobody seemed to notice.

Nobody, that is, except a little girl named Virginia.

Virginia loved Christmas.

Was there ever a time when the coming of Christmas was not a big deal? Well, yes. It seems that the observation of English Christmas customs had fallen into some disuse in the years just before Dicken's A Christmas Carol was written. And in 1897 Victorian America seems to have lapsed into a time of declining interest in all those old-timey traditions that went along with the religious holiday.

But eight year-old Virginia O'Hanlon is on the side of Christmas customs, despite the derision of most of the superciliously sophisticated in her social circle.

"You still believe in Santa Claus?" scoffed Charlotte.

"Ha!" That's so hysterical! No one could travel the whole world in one night!

"Face it, Virginia." she sneered. "There is no Santa Claus."

Virginia goes to her father for solace with the question he's been dreading to answer.

"Is there a Santa Claus?"

Father hesitates, and glancing at a copy of the New York Sun on his desk, he suggests to Virginia that perhaps if it appears in the Sun, even Charlotte will believe her.

So Virginia sits down to write that famous letter which begins...

Dear Editor, some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says if you see it in the Sun, it's so.

Please tell the truth: is there a Santa Claus?

Chris Plehal's new Yes, Virginia: There Is a Santa Claus (Chronicle Books, 2010) places this true story in a delightful Victorian setting, building a little suspense into the story as Viginia's historic letter is at first cast out as childish nonsense with the editor's trash. Set forth in engaging style by James Bernardin's stylized illustrations, with colorful street characters and a kindly and cozy family setting, this story is given a new lease on life. And the editor's famous reply still holds:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.

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