James Marion King’s debut book, The Gifts of Nicholas, is a collection of Christmas-themed poetry and stories of mysterious visits from Santa Claus.
King’s poems—a combination of rhyming poetry and free verse—are filled with images of shimmering snow, Christmastime, and Santa Claus. Interspersed are stories related by the protagonist, Jim. It’s unclear if the protagonist is meant to be the author—both are writers named Jim.
The stories seem designed to verify Santa’s magical existence. For example, in one piece, Jim travels to his parents’ house on Christmas Day to discover that each family member had received the same gift: an original letter they had written to Santa when they were children.
Jim describes how Christmas symbolizes Santa’s spirit of giving and discusses the importance of practicing that spirit each day of the year. He also reveals his good fortune to have met others who understand that it is “…not just what Christmas is truly all about but rather…what life is all about.”
Although King’s stories are intriguing, they are told in a conversational tone that lacks sensory description, thereby decreasing their dramatic effect. And many times he sacrifices clarity and sophistication to maintain his rhyme schemes and cadences; for example: “He really started something/ When he gave his gift,/ All the world to a lift.” As that excerpt also shows, syntax errors present challenges. Puzzling non-sequiturs also distract: “All I want for Christmas is for all to know that Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer pulls a sleigh because of the reality of good will.”
The illustrations vary in style. Some have colorful detail or an ethereal beauty; others are more generic looking.
Although King’s book is infused with warmth and good cheer, it is marred by uneven writing and forced rhymes. As such, it may have a hard time attracting readers, given the plethora of accomplished holiday books on the market.
Also available as an ebook.