Cecelia Reynolds’ children’s picture book Santa’s First Stop blends the tale of Santa with that of the newborn Jesus.
Readers meet Santa and his elves as they prepare for another year of delivering toys to children. They learn that each Christmas, Santa’s first stop is a visit to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. He then finds them in a cave in “a small town in the Middle East,” farm animals huddled close to keep the baby warm. Santa holds the child and thanks him for being born “so [Santa] can have the best job in the world, making children smile and feel the meaning of Christmas—LOVE.” The text then concludes that “Jesus is LOVE” and is the reason for all of Santa’s stops on Christmas.
The narrative is straightforward, without ensuing twists or surprises. According to the story, Santa carries the message of the baby’s love to all of the children Santa visits during Christmas. The fact that Jesus reappears each year as a baby, never aging, goes unexamined. The author explains the book’s purpose on the back cover: “Santa’s First Stop unites the scriptural Christmas story with the magic and wonder embodied by Santa to remind children of the true meaning of Christmas.”
This is an interesting approach, but some readers might feel that conflating a fictional children’s character with the baby Jesus trivializes the latter’s significance. The slim plot is another possible deterrent, as is the use of a few words that may prove difficult for early readers, such as “anxiously” and “harnessed.”
Overall, however, the story is easy to follow and gives readers who agree with the book’s premise an accessible tale with reread value. The illustrations are simple yet effective and support the story’s simple approach.
Santa’s First Stop doesn’t offer an engaging plot or strong characterizations, but it might be appreciated by readers who resonate with its approach of directly tying Santa and Jesus together in a Christmas story.
Also available as an ebook.