Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review - Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street

by Valentine Davies & Susanna Leonard Hill
illustrated by James Newman Gray
Date: 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

For a little girl named Susan, Christmas could be any other day. She doesn't believe in Santa Claus or magic or miracles of any kind. Then one day she meets Kriss Kringle. As she doubtfully tells him the gifts she most wishes for, deep down Susan finds herself hoping that just maybe, he is the real thing. Based on the original holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street is a heartwarming story about generosity, imagination, and the spirit of Christmas.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Well, that was disappointing.

Miracle on 34th Street is one of my favourite Christmas stories. I'm familiar with it through its two popular film versions (with the more recent one being my favourite). This picture book is based on the original novella and has been adapted into a picture-book format. Does it work? In a word: no.

There's far too much that's glossed over, leading to a choppy plot and flat characterization. Here, Susan is a cardboard little girl, without the lively skepticism that both Natalie Wood and Mara Wilson brought to the role. The narrative suffers from some questionable style choices, and some of the plot points don't make much sense when they're ripped out of context by the shortened format. (For example, Mr. Sawyer's actions against Kris don't make much sense, given that the old man was bringing customers into the store.)

The illustrations don't help bring the characters to life, either. While they're adequate, there's a flatness to everyone that makes the whole book look like it was cast with lifeless dolls.

This is one of those rare cases where the movie is better than the book. I would not recommend this particular picture book. Go check out one of the film versions instead, either the 1947 version with Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn or the 1994 version with Mara Wilson and Richard Attenborough. This story really does require more than 32 pages to do it justice.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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