For this month’s selection, we kept it simple…as in kid-lit simple. December seems to be a lot busier than any other month, so I figured a short, sweet, NYC classic that’s also big on holiday spirit would be a good way to go. Result? Miracle on 34th Street, my friends! Here’s a synopsis from GoodReads:
Kris Kringle is an elderly gentleman who lives at the Maplewood Home for the Aged in New York City, NY. When the Santa hired for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade shows up drunk, Doris Walker, the somewhat frosty, divorced Personnel Director at Macy’s, hires Kris to take his place, and Mr. Shellhammer, Head of the Toy Department, suggests that she keep Kris for the permanent job of Santa at Macy’s Department Store on 34th St., where he creates a lot of good will which even owner R. H. Macy notices.
Kris even affects Doris’s daughter, six-year-old Susan, who has been brought up by her disillusioned mother to be as matter-of-fact as herself, and their neighbor and Doris’s would-be boyfriend Fred Gailey, a lawyer with whom Kris moves in. Everything is going well until people begin to find out that Kris actually believes that he is the real Santa Claus. So the Macy’s company psychologist, Albert Sawyer, who dislikes Santa Claus anyway, decides to have Kris committed to Bellevue Insane Asylum and does so secretly without Doris’s knowledge. When he learns about it, Fred petitions for a court hearing to decide Kris’s sanity and determines to have him declared sane.
Discussion time! While this novel was written with kids in mind and is definitely on the shorter side, I still thought its theme was perhaps the biggest of all the books we’ve read this year.
1. What was your biggest takeaway from the story?
For me, it all comes down to the part in the book that says, “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” Indeed, while having faith in Santa Claus may look different for a small child than a grownup, the concept is just that…we can’t always see what’s there, but no less need to believe with all our heart…rain AND shine. (And obviously we are talking about Santa Claus metaphorically–sub in whatever spiritual persona/seemingly unattainable goal or wish you want here;-)
2. This is a rare case of the book being written after the movie. Do you think this had an effect on the story?
I did find the writing style a bit childish and almost overly structured…granted, it is a kid’s book, but I feel that perhaps the author was relying too heavily on the screenplay version? I can’t help but think this story may have sounded a bit differently if written before.
Regardless, I’m glad I finally read this holiday classic. I’ve seen the film countless times over the years, and it was nice to experience it in written form.
3. Being written in 1947, do you feel the book expresses a different kind of NYC than we have today at the holidays?
Shockingly, no! The book starts out at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I imagined to be very much similar to the one we still have today. Macy’s Department store and legendary Santa Claus are still very much important landmarks in NYC. I think maybe that’s why it was so easy for the remake of the film, taking place in 1994, to seem so realistic, despite the decades that have passed since the original.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book below, and make sure to join us next month for our discussion on Panic in a Suitcase, which we’ll hold on the blog on Thursday, January 22nd. Between now and then feel free to share your thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #UYCBookclub!
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen