Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas: All I Want for Christmas and Manga Claus

Loggia, Wendy. All I Want for Christmas
November 3rd 2020 by Underlined (PenguinRandomhouse)
Ohio Digital Library copy

Bailey (named after George Bailey) LOVES Christmas, and loves working at a small, thriving book store in town. She also volunteers there with her high school classmates, wrapping gifts and donating the money to charity. When Jacob Marley comes in to buy books, she helps him pick some out, but he has forgotten his wallet, and says he'll come back. Bailey also meets the dreamy Charlie, who is cute and British, but is vague about his background and lives an hour away. All Bailey wants is for a romantic holiday, and she finds herself involved with both guys. She thinks Jacob is a bit of a jerk, but he surprises her. Charlie is charming, but somewhat disappointing. She babysits, has a neighborhood cookie party, and sees both guys on a variety of dates, but can't make up her mind in between making spritz cookies and frolicking with her adorable Westie, Dickens. When Jacob reveals hidden depths, and Charlie tells her a surprising secret, Bailey's choice is made for her. 
Strengths: This is exactly what many of my students are looking for. A romance with high school characters who don't drink or engage in any hanky panky other than kissing. It references Hallmark movies, and seems similar to them. (I've never actually seen one, just read about them!) Bailey has a supportive, intact family, good friends, an active social life, and no discernable trauma. When I was a teen, I would have loved this as well. 
Weaknesses: Had I read this 20 years ago, I wouldn't have blinked. Today, it seemed... dated? Irrelevant? This is DEFINITELY more a function of literature today and my interactions with it than the book. It showcases a very white, very privileged world. This is fine. (See my review of The Never Evers.) If we are reflecting different realities, this is certainly a reality we can see reflected. It's just not the kind of book I read too much anymore. 
What I really think: It's good that teachers and librarians are thinking about diversity in books, but most of my students aren't. For some odd reason, the students who ask specifically for Christmas romances are often my girls of Somalian descent, many of whom wear the hijab. I have not asked them about this, but just try to find books that they enjoy. The old Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies are very popular with this demographic. Have a prebind of this title on my list to purchase. 

Flashback: This is the FIRST graphic novel I ever bought! I have vague memories of seeing this in a catalog with the graphic novel of Stormbreaker, and putting in a special purchase order for just these two items, since Follett didn't carry them. 

Marunas, Nathaniel and Craddock, Erik. Manga Claus
September 14th 2006 by Razorbill
Library copy

Trigger Warning: Violence to teddy bears. 

Fritz is an elf at the North Pole who is disgruntled about working in the laundry instead of having a more glamorous position. He tries to negotiate with Santa, but his boss is not happy with his performance but promises to renegotiate if the busy holidays go well. Not happy with this, Fritz uses a little magic to try to create a small emergency that he can then help with, making him look good. Sadly, things go very wrong, and soon a gang of ninja teddy bears is on the loose, terrorizing the elves and making their way to a power center, which would end very badly. Luckily, Santa has received swords from a samurai in Japan years ago, and these allow him to channel the power necessary to literally knock the stuffing out of the threat. Christmas is able to continue, and Fritz is put in charge of the special effects of Santa's yearly ride, including making the reindeer look like pink smoke is trailing from their rears. 
Strengths: I do appreciate that Fritz recaps the entire plot for us in one box; "I just wanted... to mess things up a little so I could come to the rescue, but there are so many of these ninjas and they're out of control". Yep. You messed up, Fritz. Plan on spending the rest of your career in the laundry and just be glad you're not working in the stables. But, no. Santa's a nicer guy, and I can only imagine that he was glad to break up the monotony and stress of Christmas Eve with the adrenaline rush of evil, enchanted ninja teddies. The art is fun, there are lots of Batman-like sound effects (Shuk! Skree! Urr!), and the cover alone makes me smile. 
Weaknesses: Really? Fritz nearly causes the destruction of Santa's entire North Pole facility, and he gets a promotion? Disturbing. Also, I can't find much else that Marunas has done, after this illustrious start.
What I really think: Obviously, money well spent. Definitely a bit goofy, but the pictures of Santa hulking out and saving the day are worth it. The copy has held up surprisingly well, considering the book is older than all of my students!

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Manga Klaus, the Blade of Kringle: my Christmas is now complete, knowing this exists!