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*Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle* by Nathaniel Marunas, illustrated by Erik Craddock- young readers book review

Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle
by Nathaniel Marunas, illustrated by Erik Craddock
Ages 9-12 80 pages Razorbill September 2006 Hardcover    

Fritz may not be on Santa’s Nice List this Christmas. Fritz, Laundry Elf 3rd Class, has added a little something more to the toys made in Santa’s workshop. Now Santa will have to use the gift he was given over a century ago to save Christmas.

Santa believes “it’s teamwork that makes Christmas possible.” Fritz, unhappy working in laundry, initiates a plan that almost destroys the whole team that makes Christmas possible. Santa’s biggest worry is no longer assembly line fires. And the coloring books going up in flames would seem insignificant compared to what Santa is faces this Christmas: saving the entire facility at the North Pole. Santa must stop the destruction sure to happen at Turtle Dove Dam once the evil ninja stuffed bears infiltrate the place. With a map of the compound in their puffy toy paws and a swath of destruction already behind them, Santa will need his two ancient swords to defeat these awful toys.

Fortunately, Fritz proves to be helpful to Santa after all. It’s his quick thinking and fast ride down the laundry shoot that enables Santa to bring peace back to the North Pole. Following the evil toy fiasco, Santa actually rewards Fritz with the new position of “Special Effects Coordinator.” Fritz immediately makes plans to make Christmas Eve more colorful. Now it’s the reindeer that have to worry!

The mood in Manga Claus is definitely Christmas-y. Author Nathaniel Marunas, also a book editor in New York, writes in a witty comical vein. Santa’s exclamation of choice is “O, Holy Night,” and Fritz describes the lightless corridors as “darker than a stocking full of coal>” A "Joy to the World" banner covers one wall of the toy workshop, the cafeteria menu reads Granny Kringle’s Coconut Cobbler, a sign reminds everyone about the importance of reindeer flu shots, and the infirmary has a Holly Jolly MRI. Thelaundry room has some of the funniest bits. Arrows show were the jumbo washers and dryers are, and where to go for lost socks. And it’s the “Elf Knickers” cart that Fritz uses to get back to Santa quickly.

Erik Craddock, whose work can be seen in underground comics, series animations, and a movie, has created a festive atmosphere in every panel of this book. Red is one of the main colors of the season, and the only colors turned on in these black and white illustrations are shades of red. In Manga Claus, the details in Santa’s home are synonymous with Christmas - candy cane-striped waterhoses for the firefighter elves, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer flashlights for elves wandering in the dark, and chestnuts as the snack of choice for hungry elves. With Santa in his red suit and pom-pommed hat and the elves in their curly-toed slippers and droopy caps, all the characters look innocent and incorruptible.

Together, author and artist have created some memorable comic moments, such as the Christmas clash between Santa and the stuffed evil bears where stuffing goes flying, and a physically transformed Santa can be seen wielding his swords. Another great scene involves Wallace, the elf on night-shift cleaning duty, demonstrating his broom-handling skills not against dirty floors, but against evil toys.

I highly recommend Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle. It’s a fun book to read at any time of the year.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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