Bobbie Hefner’s sweet tale featuring a golden retriever called Radar falls snugly into the tradition of stories in which characters deliver bounty to the unfortunate in time for Christmas morning. In this picture book, Santa sends the dog and a teddy bear on a mission to discover, decorate and warm the home – in a remote, snowbound landscape – of a sleeping child.
Radar’s Christmas Mission is written as a long rhyming poem. While Hefner’s storyline is heartwarming, unfortunately she falters with the poetry, particularly in finding creative word choices to rhyme and sustaining the meter.
Throughout, each line begins with a capital letter, whether or not the line continues a thought. Punctuation is sparse or lacking. Stiff wording is often used to force meter or rhyme. And, as is shown in this quatrain, meter sometimes is abandoned so the author can deliver information: “As Radar set off into the night/ A star to lead the way/ He held on tight to Teddy/ So they would not get lost along the way.”
This book is greatly enhanced by the illustrations of Joel Ray Pellerin, who not only captures the dreamy nature of a nighttime Christmas Eve mission in polar climes, but adds appealing elements that the author’s text doesn’t spell out – for instance, filling the fireplace, initially depicted as empty, with a warming fire by book’s end. Pellerin endows Radar and Teddy with wonderful facial expression and has a real talent for drawing a classic Santa.
Despite her poetry’s flaws, Hefner’s imaginative conclusion about a streak of light in the Christmas night sky – and Pellerin’s illustrations – hold real appeal. Polishing the poetry could greatly improve this work for a later edition.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.