Friday, December 16, 2011

When Santa Fell to Earth, by Cornelia Funke

Worst Christmas book EVER!!!

Why did I read this?! (Well, there is a reason but it involves TMI about this being the bathroom book and my always forgetting to switch it out and so I just muddled through, hoping it would improve. When Santa Fell to Earth is a (mercifully) short and a quick read. I suppose that is it's saving grace. The content definitely belongs in the bathroom so it's sort of fitting.)

Cornelia Funke is a hit-or-miss author for me. I LOVED Inkheart. Hated Inkspell. LOVED The Thief Lord. Hate When Santa Fell to Earth. And I know that tween fans of Funke will find this post and say I'm stupid because of it (they've done it before) and so be it. I'll be stupid then. (They likely picked up the word "stupid" as applied to adults after reading this book.)

The basic premise is this:

The last real Santa has fallen to earth in his caravan (full of Christmas elves and angels) and is stranded in a location where children do not believe in the real Santa Clause anymore. Not that there are many left to believe in. The big bad Goblynch has turned all of the real Santas into chocolate Clauses and has filled Christmas with a spirit of commercialism, promoting game consuls instead of original Christmas elf gifts. Goblynch and his crew of wicked nutcrackers are out to find this last real Santa and turn him into chocolate also. If not for a young boy named Ben, and his friend Charlotte, the world would be missing the true spirit of Christmas as Goblynch would have taken over everything and Christmas magic would be no more.

This is possibly an entertaining concept - a fanciful and fun Christmas story except the elves immediately strike the tone for the book, swearing all the way. (It's "clean swearing" but still. Phrases like, "Smelly goblin farts!" and "steaming reindeer poo!" do not endear me to this particular story.)

Then there is Ben, the main character. The little boy who cheats on math tests, and outright hates his parents is written up to be the Savior of Christmas, ultimately destroying Goblynch, thereby freeing the real Santa to reign again. Ben's parents are apparently out-of-touch with reality, or at least with Ben. They long to go to a warmer climate for Christmas and simply cannot understand why Ben doesn't want to go with them. Ben wants to stay home and play in the snow. His parents "force" a vacation on him, mocking him with purchased airplane tickets which will take them south. But then, lo and behold, Ben's dad breaks his leg and curses the moon for it interfering with their vacation plans. Ben is pleased as punch with his dad's predicament and offers not an ounce of sympathy. On Christmas day itself, Ben cops such an attitude with his dad, and is so angry with his parents that he, "would have loved to kick his leg cast."

This book pictures a completely dysfunctional and angry family. Not that such types do not exist, but it's rather loathsome to read about - and completely unsatisfying in any respect - when the author chooses to leave the problems unspecified and doesn't see fit to deal with them. Most children would not be picking up this book in order to get a realistic picture of what family life can be like under hard circumstances. They'd be picking this up to read a Christmas story. As such, I have to say that it is deplorable. The book doesn't bother me because their family life is hard but because there is no justifiable reason for it being hard. Funke seems to suggest that what is wrong in their relationships is actually right and the authority structure, which should be right, is wrong. The family she gives us to spend time with just flat out doesn't work. They dislike each other. And when families just don't like each other, it's hard to want to spend time with them. Ben's family refuses to treat each other kindly under any circumstances and Funke suggests that Ben has it all right and all together when he's a pipsqueak who needs a bit of direction and instruction! (Ahem.)

I would not like Ben at all if he were a real person and I don't like the way that Funke has the real Santa suggesting that Ben is the only decent person on earth. Ben cheats. He lies. He's rude and unkind. We cannot think that he's wonderful when we find him lying, cheating and bullying without explanation or resolution. So, no. I don't like him. Not even just a little bit!

I certainly would not hand this book over to my kids. I picked it up at Goodwill for $0.99 to give it a whirl and by my estimation, it's not even worth that much. I can't decide if I'll just send it back from whence it came, or deposit it in the trashcan. Because after the bathroom, the trashcan is the only other place where this book could possibly feel at home.


Cassandra said...

Ooh, ouch. Great review. Sounds like a terrible book. Thanks for the warning!

Bluerose said...

LOL...I don't think I'll be reading this one! I haven't read any of her books yet.

What's worse(for me) than children coming to call names, is the parents coming to insult you just because you don't like a book their child likes. "sigh"

Stephanie Kay said...

Whew! Guess that's another book I won't be reading. Have fun with all the indignant tweens. :D

bekahcubed said...

Ugh--sounds icky. I'll be giving this one a pass, then.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

The trend in literature seems to be to deny the existence of nice people altogether. Unfortunately, this may become a self-fulfilling prophesy. To quote the always-quotable Shaw:
"A pessimist thinks everybody is as nasty as himself, and hates them for it."

B said...

I think I'll take your word for it and pass on this one :)

BerlinerinPoet said...

Wow. I haven't read any Cornelia Funke's books. Sounds like I'm not missing much.

I don't like that kind of relationship between parent and child in books. It just seems like there is enough of that, and I'm not sure I want to read about it.

Hope the tweens don't kick you in the cast. ;-)

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Ha, ha! I just finished reading this book yesterday to discuss for my kidlit December book club and every. single. point. that you brought up was discussed at book club. I also really, really disliked this book. And what is really funny is that, it too, was my bathroom book!

Shonya said...

Great and entertaining review! ;) I've never read any of Cornelia Funke's books--I glanced through a couple at the library and they just didn't look worth the time. Thanks for confirming my gut instinct!

Annette W. said...

You crack me up.

Somehow, my 5 year old swears like that, too. So even mundane words often need to be washed out of her mouth for the attitude behind them....what shall I do it ten years when she's 15? OH MY!

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