"Once upon a time, about, hmmm, five years ago, there was this groovy dude
and his name was Santa Claus, y'know? And he used to live over in the
projects with his old lady and they had a pretty good thing together because
his old lady was really fine and she could cook and all that stuff like
-- Cheech and Chong, from another great Santa story.
"He looked around and saw the pudding on the table. After eating milk and
cookies all night, the pudding looked tasty and warm.
"'Christmas pudding! What a splendid idea!' Santa exclaimed, and took a
spoonful from the great big bowl.
"'This pudding is too hot!' he said, and tested the pudding in the
middle-size bowl. 'This pudding is too cold.'
"He decided to move on to the pudding in the wee little bowl.
"'This pudding is just right,' he said, and ate it all up!"
My first thought, upon reading SANTA CLAUS AND THE THREE BEARS was: Wow,
man! What a groovy twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears!
This thought was then quickly overrun by a whole avalanche of ideas about
how to employ and enjoy this book with the four-to-eight year-olds who
will be entertained by, and learn from, this outstanding picture book that
features Santa and a trio of polar bears.
Of course, the real long-term value in a story such as this one comes
from having a young audience already being thoroughly familiar with the
traditional tale of Goldilocks. I have always been a great fan of the late James
Marshall in general, and adore his GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, a
Caldecott Honor book which was published back in my days as director of a
childcare center. You can have (and I did have) a good number of young kids
repeatedly acting out the traditional story as I read it to the circle. The
more you do something like this on a regular basis at circle time, the more
fun it is.
The kids learn from each other how to be more and more
comfortable performing, and more and more over-the-top dramatic and entertaining.
Their familiarity with the story permits one to get a bit more complicated
with the impromptu staging, adding to the cast by having pairs of kids
serve as the bedposts for the three beds, or to be holding different-sized
pretend bowls from which Goldilocks can eat.
"'SOMEBODY IS SLEEPING IN MY BED,' said Baby Bear in his wee little voice,
'AND WHO COULD IT BE?'
"The three bears looked at Baby Bear's bed. They saw lots of white hair,
a red jacket covered with soot, and, sticking out from the bottom of the
blanket, two black boots."
Do you see how, when the traditional version has been read and performed
regularly, it is going to be the ultimate crack-up to then have this
twisted tale version at hand, along with a Santa hat, and a cast and audience who
are all well-versed in the details of the traditional story?
In the long run, with the kids having learned the entertainment value in
creating twisted tales such as this one, you can then have them
brainstorming, scripting, and staging their own twisted tales. This practice in
developing narrative skills is where you can fruitfully employ a book like this
with eight year-olds who could well be writing and illustrating their own
books that bring the three bears in contact with anyone from the Abominable
Snowman to one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Abraham Lincoln.
Ages 4-7 40 pages 978-0-06-170023-1
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA