Illustrated by S.D. Schindler
(Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002)
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never contemplated Santa’s employment history. I’ve never even thought of a pre-Santa Santa. Could it be that the guy was just a regular Nick? S.D. Schindler’s first illustration of Santa as a young man is indeed startling. He’s a red-headed, beardless, relatively trim guy, dressed in green pants and a brown jacket. (Yes, the red tie and red socks hint of things to come, but this is still radical imagery for a reader who has had only one view of Santa his entire life! It is nice to have things shaken up every half century or so.)
The story begins, as the title suggests, with a young Santa on the job hunt. It comes as yet another shock to discover that this affable, beloved icon couldn’t hold down a job in the early days.
Chimney sweep? Canned. Apparently, he was TOO skilled, shimmying into chimneys and cleaning ‘em up without a trace of soot on his clothes. Where was the proof that he’d done any work at all?!
As a postal delivery worker, he hated getting stuck in city traffic and chose to do his runs when streets were deserted in the middle of the night. Way back then, some people didn’t take kindly to signing for parcels at 3 a.m. Fired again. Humph.
As I read this story to forty children, they quickly picked up on the fact that Santa’s employment challenges could become assets in a career for which he was uniquely qualified. Why, of course, being Santa Claus was what the jolly old man was born to be!
Of all Stephen Krensky’s musings about Santa’s little known backstory, my favorite involves Santa’s circus days when he laughs too heartily being shot out of a cannon. Kids will love the entire tale. Adults can also take heart the next time they have to consider a career change. If it took Santa awhile to finally get it right, we can cut ourselves some slack, too!