Peace Corps Writers

The Christmas Contest

The Christmas Contest
(Children’s Book)
by Virginia Mekkelson (Ethiopia 1968–70)
writing as Valentina Gilbert
Mekkelson Books
September 2004
83 pages

Reviewed by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen (Tanzania 1989–91)

IMAGINE A WORLDWIDE CONTEST to promote the Christmas spirit, initiated by the granddaughter of Santa Claus himself. ThisPrinter friendly version light-hearted premise sends the reader on a journey from the North Pole to a shopping mall in Wisconsin where Siri Claus decides to set up her base of operations.
     The Christmas Contest interprets Santa Claus and his family business in a new way by bringing the fantasy of Christmas into a mundane, grassroots setting. The book also sheds a practical light on matters at the North Pole, adding to the humorous tone of the story.

“We already have those lamps, remember? We got them after the pool hall burned down, and so many elves were diagnosed with bi-polar disorder,” Jerry reminded her. He shook his head. What a nightmare that had been.

     At the shopping mall, the cast of characters ranges from a Santa-loving mall director to a juvenile delinquent who resorts to wreaking havoc in order to provide opportunities to commit good deeds. In the end, as expected, the Christmas Contest is a success, bringing the spirit of Christmas back to one small town while providing hope for the rest of the world.
The slightness of the book would suggest it is aimed at younger readers, yet the age of the central characters leaves me a bit confused as to who the actual audience should be. But, the book definitely has a Christmas glow about it, and would work well for an evening read-aloud during the holiday season, reminding us all of the Christmas spirit and how to keep it alive year round.

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen is an award-winning children’s author who lives in southern Washington.
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