How does Santa go down the chimney? by Mac Barnett. Illus. by Jon Klassen

cover image

Spatial awareness will be encouraged as readers think about how Santa fits down the chimney. Does he need to make himself small, or stretch or slim down by pulling in his belt? All attempts are before our eyes as the book is read, but the problem remains. The inscrutable reindeer watch on, offering to carry his jacket or giving him a cup of coffee. Should he turn himself into fire, perhaps not? Does he go head first, or feet first, perhaps he goes sideways? But he may get stuck half way down needing the reindeer to give him a kick to move him on.

Then what happens when finally gets down the chimney? A very sooty Santa peers out and goes to the laundry where he sits while his clothes are washed. And what if there is no chimney? Suggestions about how he can work without a chimney are now asked for.

More questions come up. How does Santa deal with dogs he finds in the house, how does he see in the dark, find the spare key.

Solutions are offered which invite readers to think of their own solutions to the problems raised. Should they leave out carrots not biscuits to help Santa with his weight. Many solutions are suggested leading the author to ask a final question, how does Santa get back onto the roof?

A very funny look at something we all know about, supported by hilarious illustrations showing a quizzical Santa and bemused reindeer pondering the questions raised in the story. Klassen presents an unfussy set of illustrations, often turning expected ideas on their head: Santa in the laundry, or reindeer that stand up on their back legs, drinking coffee, Klassen always makes me laugh out loud at his surprising images and I am always susceptible to his minimalist use of colour and background.

Kids will love thinking about how Santa can do this activity and brainstorm possible solutions with others in the group. The illustrations show a range of Christmas images, those things associated with Christmas: snow, Christmas tree, leaving food out for Santa, Christmas lights and so on. A great introduction to that time of the year and a funny book to ponder and discuss, How does Santa go down the chimney? is a book to be savoured, a real stand out amongst all the banal Christmas book offerings.

Themes: Santa Claus, Christmas, Chimneys, Snow, Humour.

Fran Knight