A “Behavioral Elf” helps a girl named Sarah change her ways in Nanette Crighton’s delightful picture book The Christmas Spryte Encounter: Bad Behavior.
Glynt P. Spryte, or GPS for short, suddenly appears in the midst of Sarah’s temper tantrum at the mall. He warns her that tomorrow is Christmas, and that she’s been scratched from the “nice” list; she can only expect lumps of coal for her presents. The scared-straight approach makes Sarah consider her bad behavior: “I imagined the Christmas tree, no gifts for me;/ And then I envisioned the girl I COULD be./ This Elf and my mom just want me to be good/ And all it requires is to do what I should!”
With her last-minute change of heart, Sarah begins acting helpful and nice, and it’s enough to earn a Christmas with plenty of presents. But beyond this short-term goal, Sarah observes that she likes the new person she’s become.
The book is written in rhyming verse, and Crighton does a good job with it: It’s easy to read, rhythmical, and often humorous. The tone is breezy and fun, the text mostly succinct. Crighton makes one choice that, while perhaps not technically wrong, creates a distraction: using a quotation mark at the beginning of every quoted line, as if each line were its own paragraph. Treating each four-line stanza as a paragraph, with one quotation mark at the beginning and another (if required) at its end might have more aesthetic appeal and foster less confusion in young readers.
The art is engaging, as is the Spryte character design; the tiny, winged GPS—dressed in cowboy boots, chaps, a vest, and matching headwear—has distinctive and memorable sartorial tastes, amusingly described: “The hat that he wore held one-twelfth of a cup/ ‘Cause a ten-gallon hat would have covered him up.”
An enjoyable Christmas tale that sets a good example, The Christmas Spryte Encounter: Bad Behavior is recommended for children 10 and younger.