An engaging holiday children’s story, Snowball: The Story of Santas [sic] Puppy is as sweet as a candy cane. It’s easy to understand how the sharing of this holiday confection, told in rhyme, became a cherished family tradition for author Keith Gonyea’s clan.
When his family is killed in a brutal wolf attack, a tiny, white, fluff-ball-of-a-puppy heads out into the dangerous world. Cold, sad and lonely, he’s on the verge of freezing to death when some friendly reindeer stumble across him – including a happy fellow with a glowing red nose. Soon the puppy is holding firmly to the reindeer’s mane and, you guessed it, flying across the sky to the North Pole. Santa and the reindeers name him Snowball, and it isn’t long before our puppy hero is riding in Santa’s sleigh, helping deliver Christmas joy.
This is a charming, original story. Unfortunately, author Gonyea isn’t as powerful a poet as he is storyteller. The rhymes can be pedestrian, while the sentences become awkward as they hunt for those rhymes. (For instance, Santa talks about naming the puppy in this choppy cadence: “None of those common names/ like Spot or Bowzer will do…/ The name you want us to call you by/ has gotta be just right for you.”) If this were written in straight prose, the end result would be much more powerful.
Ivan Earl Aguilar’s illustrations are colorful and warm. That said, the book would benefit from a more thoughtful design that avoids the repetitive use of the same image of Snowball in the right hand corner of every two-page spread. In addition, minor copyediting issues remain (as shown by the book’s subtitle, which should contain an apostrophe, as in “The Story of Santa’s Puppy”).
These limitations aside, this is a warm-hearted and original story. Those who don’t mind wrestling with the rhythm of the words may enjoy making it a holiday tradition of their own.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.