by Rebecca Munsterer and Georgianna Manderioli, illustrator
In This Together Media 11/14/2013
Age 7 and up 122 pages 84
If Kat McGee had one Christmas wish, she’d wish to be special. Instead, she’s the boring middle in a family packed with sparkly siblings, including three sisters who have all starred as Mary in Totsville, Maine’s annual big-deal Christmas Pageant. All Kat’s done is wet her pants on a rollercoaster and earn herself the horrible nickname, “Kat McPee.” When she doesn’t get the part of Mary, Kat’s convinced that Christmas will be just another Kat McPee failure.
But then Kat’s beloved Gram lets it slip that she went to school with Mrs. Claus. The Mrs. Claus. Before Kat knows it, a magical snowglobe whisks her away to the North Pole, where she makes friends, checks naughty and nice lists, and takes classes in cookie baking, reindeer training, and toy designing. It’s a Christmas miracle … But something is wrong. The North Pole is being threatened, and only Kat McGee can help. Kat is about to learn that the spirit of Christmas is about what you give, not what you get, and who you can be if you believe in Christmas … and yourself.
“Kat McPee. It didn’t get much worse than that. Katherine Elizabeth McGee was her full name. Kat always thought it sounded like the name of a princess. But nobody called her Katherine. They just called her Kat.”
In this adventure, Kat wants to be Mary is Totsville’s Christmas pageant. Three of her sisters have been Mary and now it is Kat’s turn. She is everything that the committee wants, yet a lesser candidate gets the prized role. Kat happens to run into the girl’s father, knocking an envelope full of money—a bribe for the principal who chooses the girl who plays Mary. No one believes Kat, not even a sister who is actually mean in her response to Kat. A rotten day for Kat until she gets home and finds Gram waiting for her. Gram gives her a snow globe that transports Kat to the North Pole and a visit with Gram’s old school chum, Sadie Claus. From there Kat has an excellent adventure that will entice everyone who reads about it.
Kat McGee is a stereotypical middle child. She easily goes unnoticed, pales in comparison to her brothers and sisters, and feels left out and usually is. For some reason, Kat is an irritation to her siblings. There is only one real bright spot for Kat and that is Gram. Gram seems to understand Kat and knows what Kat needs and when she needs it. When Kat is having an especially trying time, Gram makes a visit. Actually, Gram shows up, as if she has a crystal ball directed on Kat. Every protagonist needs a cheerleader, and Gram is that for Kat.
The well-written story has excellent editing. No typos, grammar, or punctuation problems, not even a misplaced or forgotten comma. The plot is believable. Scoogie (an early nickname for Scrooge?), is plotting to take over Santa’s job and institute many changes he believes are important for the North Pole to stay abreast of technology What Scoogie does not understand is that Santa and the North Pole have had the best technology for eons and there was nothing to improve upon. Still, Scoogie sabotages Christmas to make Santa look old and senile, incapable of handling the duties of the North Pole or delivering gifts to little kids.
The techniques Scoogie puts in place make a lot of sense on the surface, but do not work alongside the magic of the North Pole. Kat happens upon the evidence and takes it to Mrs. Claus, sure that this time an indifferent sister will not shoot her down. I like how everything ties together. Kat does not suddenly have abilities or knowledge she did not gain earlier in the story. The transition from North Pole student to North Pole hero is an easy jump.
The only problem is the ending. All is fine until Kat’s siblings suddenly take an interest in Kat because of a magic snow globe Santa has left for her. The ending feels forced and fake. The ending would have been better to leave it at the point of either Gram waking Kat up and serving her breakfast or Kat opening the snow globe and smiling as she thinks back on her adventure and realizes it actually happened. This is not a problem I just think it odd that jolly old Saint Nick is so skinny on the cover. There are two covers, while Santa is still a Slim Jim, the second cover (seen here) is the better cover.
There are a few illustrations at the top of each chapter. They are all cute elves that will put Christmas spirit in those that view them. Mrs. Claus and the School of Christmas Spirit is an inspired chapter book that even reluctant readers will enjoy. Is it a coincidence that there are twelve chapters? For a bedtime read, one chapter a night will get kids and parents through the long twelve days of Christmas. Mrs. Claus and the School of Christmas Spirit is the best new Christmas story for 2013 and could easily become a classic if enough people find a copy of this adventure under their tree.
To learn more about the story click HERE.
Learn more about the illustrator, Georgianna Manderioli
KAT MCGEE ADVENTURES #1: MRS. CLAUS AND THE SCHOOL OF CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Text copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Munsterer. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Georgianna Manderioli. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, In This Together Media, Hoboken, NJ.