For kids (and parents) who appreciate a little sour to offset the sweet, Laura Leuck's Santa Claws
pleases over-sugared holiday palates. Its nearly traditional tale of two monster boys who just want Santa to bring the presents they hope for skews a bit to the south with Leuck's delightfully Halloween-y rhyming narrative (set in occasionally calligraphic type) and Gris Grimly's cute yet ghastly Depression-era watercolor and ink illustrations.
In their shack at the edge of Monster Town, Mack and Zack hang their smelly, dripping socks in anticipation of the sort of "toys" every young monster might yearn for - a potion kit, a vampire bat, a "hot new game called Trap the Rat":
They've been so good the whole year through so Santa will climb down their flue with bulging sack and blood red suit, a squirming snake tucked in his boot.
As tattered carolers sing "Wreck the Halls," the boys help out in the Christmas kitchen making poisonberry pies and eggnog mixed with spider feet to leave out as a treat for the fat old red-clad sprite who flies a dragon when he drops in.
Grimly's singular style makes Santa Claws a treasure for those looking for picture books beyond "cute" - be sure to indulge in the old-style advertisements gracing the front and back inside covers for "Ear Wax Furniture Polish" and "Dog Breath Mouthwash." Brilliant.
Sharon Schulz-Elsing/2006 for curled
up with a good kid's book