Christmas Stories is a collection of ten holiday-themed tales, with a cover that features Squire, an English bulldog, wearing a jaunty Santa Claus hat.
Despite his high profile, this hyper-intelligent dog appears in just two of the included stories. In the first, Santa makes Squire his middleman for a project that gives dogs control of their dreams each night. In the second, Squire and his friends misbehave in order to extort Christmas presents from their human owners. These are the two stories most likely to appeal to children, although excessive grammar mistakes will make them difficult for young readers to follow.
Other than one story about Rudolph, the rest of this collection spotlights working-class families in a post-colonial Caribbean setting. Though Santa is a major player throughout, many Christmas clichés are put on hold in this slender book, allowing readers to experience the familiar from a unique perspective and in a distinctive setting. Lemon trees and feasts of “cassava pie and crabby grass with fresh carrots” may feel unfamiliar to most American readers, but these elements paint a detailed, realistic picture that is truly delightful to spend time with.
Post-colonial or no, however, these stories are founded on creative premises that don’t seem to have a target audience. The tales feel far too adolescent for most adult readers, and yet the characters are preoccupied with singularly adult dilemmas: Rudolph frets over his pregnant wife; Squire is painfully over-worked; a farmer struggles to find extra land for his cattle — all themes that are likely to bore younger readers.
With much copyediting, a streamlined focus, and a precocious young reader, this collection might provide novel bedtime reading. As it is, Christmas Stories simply misses the mark.