ABBOTT, Tony. Kringle. illus. by Greg Call. 338p. Scholastic. Oct. 2005. Tr $14.99. ISBN 0-439-74942-5. LC number unavailable.
Gr 4-6In northern Britain in the early fifth century, a boy named Kringle and an old woman named Merwen live in an isolated cottage. When they are attacked by goblins, Kringle runs away, meets friendly shoe-repairing elves and pirates, and above all makes it his mission to rescue Merwen and hundreds of children. This fantasy combines magic (elven runes and flying reindeer), history (the end of the Roman occupation figures prominently, as does a certain Brother Alban), theology (Kringle is fascinated to learn about baby Jesus and his family), and a good dose of imagination to come up with a delightful explanation of the origins of our present-day Santa Claus. Fantasy readers will enjoy this tale year-round, despite the reindeer and holly on the cover.E. M.
Abbott, Tony. Kringle. Oct. 2005. 352p. Scholastic, $14.99 (0-439-74942-5).
Gr. 58. On first glance, this story of how Kris Kringle came to live at the North Pole, surrounded by toy-making elves, sounds like the premise for a lighthearted cartoon. It is anything but. The boy Kringle lives in a dark wood in a dark age with Merwen, the old woman who has taken care of him since his mother died in childbirth. On the longest day of the year, the goblins come to enslave children. Kringle barely escapes, but Merwen is captured. So begins Kringle's long journey to find her, during which he learns his true purpose, after being rescued by elves, who aid him in the inevitable battle against evil. Framed in a world of cold and with religious overtones, the fantasy recalls C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the end, Kringle triumphs and vows to make the year's longest day, which marks the birth of the Child, a happy one for children. Told in a come-nearer voice, this epic could have used some tightening, but the enticing premise, appealing young hero, and nonstop action will appeal to many fantasy lovers. Ilene Cooper
Darkness lurks outside twelve-year-old Kringle's forest hut, the darkness of winter and of the goblins who pursue him. As the Romans withdraw from Britain and Norse invaders approach, the goblins kidnap children to power the mysterious Grunding, a war machine with which they plan to take over the world. Thrust into the role of rescuer, Kringle enlists the help of elves, pirates (Norsemen), and even reindeer as he travels north to confront the evil menace. Readers are hearing about Santa Claus, of course, but a Santa far removed from the commercial clichE. Abbott, author of the popular series Secrets of Droon, reimagines the old elf in a fresh and invigorating way. Like the archetypal hero, Kringle begins as a naOve boy and grows into his role. Familiar elements of the Christmas story-the elves, the sleigh, the North Pole home-fit convincingly into the book's internal logic. There are battles and blood, but the gentle narration of old Brother Alban balances these with incidents of goodness and compassion. Alban teaches Kringle about the Christ Child, so that, without a hint of preachiness, the religious significance of the season is integrated into the story. The plot could use some tightening, but that is a minor quibble. The book will have wide appeal for fantasy lovers and Narnia fans as well as seasonal browsers attracted by a beautiful cover and classy, gold-edged pages. Public libraries especially will want multiple copies of what should become a holiday family classic. -Kathleen Beck...
Horn Book Guide
(January 1, 2006; 0-439-74942-5; 978-0-439-74942-8)
In an elaborate, saccharine fantasy, Abbott explains how a boy named Kringle joins the elves, frees humanity from terror by defeating evil kidnapping goblins, and grows up to be the famous Christmas gift-give