The Book of Kringle: Legend of the North Pole (Vista Clara Productions)

In this great, all-ages book, Valez puts a fresh coat of paint on the origin story of everyone’s favorite jolly old giver of joy and classic Coca-Cola ads.

Written by Derek Velez Partridge and Mary Packard

Illustrated by David Wenzel

32 pgs., hardcover

Do we really need Christmas? Sure, department stores have been vigorously prepping us for it since the last July 4th fireworks displays shot their last round of comets and chrysanthemums into the skies. But is it necessary?

Writers Derek Valez Partridge and Mary Packard certainly seem to think so. In their new work, The Book of Kringle: Legend of the North Pole, the case is made that the need really never goes away. In this age of runaway pessimism, social media angst, and elected officials who seem hell-bent on trumping anything good and decent in the world, perhaps an old-fashioned Christmas is more important than ever.

 In this great, all-ages book, Valez puts a fresh coat of paint on the origin story of everyone’s favorite jolly old giver of joy and classic Coca-Cola ads. As it turns out, the North Pole wasn’t always a place of gingerbread cookies and happy elves making wonderful toys. Narrated by a kindly elf named Manusol, we learn the North Pole was “not a pole at all.” It was a rather dark place, ruled with an iron fist by an evil king who basically placed an embargo on anything even remotely resembling little things like laughter, happiness, and glee. You see, this king basically ran a sweatshop employed by humble elves who toiled seven days a week mining fancy jewels for his royal highness.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: the king has a sibling, a young, kind-hearted man named Kris Kringle who is the north-polar opposite of his malevolent, big-bad-bro. Could he be the light in the darkness that will transform the North Pole and, quite possibly, the world?

Though his name is a bit of a spoilery giveaway, the story is told in such a charming and engaging manner, that it manages to capture the magic of the season while keeping plenty of surprising twists. This is the book you want to share with your children in the days leading up to that magical night when stockings are hung by the chimney with care. It will also serve as a distraction when they ask you how Santa will make it down said chimney when it’s plainly obvious you don’t have a chimney.

The text is augmented by lavish, full-page, old-timey illustrations, courtesy of artist David Wenzel that perfectly enhance and complement the narrative. Wenzel famously did the marvelous illustrations for The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic, and his style is perfectly suited for this particular brand of storytelling.

Supposedly, the plan is that this will be the first book in a series. If so, parents and children will continue to have something to enjoy together for years to come; and you don’t even need a PlayStation account or expensive accessories to enjoy it. All you need are eyeballs and a heart that could use a little love. | Jim Ousley

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