Merry Navidad! Christmas Carols in Spanish and English. By Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy. English version by Rosalma Zubizarreta. Illustrated by Viví Escrivá. Rayo/HarperCollins. $16.99.
Fartsy Claus. By Mitch Chivus. Illustrated by Mike Reed. HarperCollins. $16.99.
Every Christmas season brings some books with new angles on the holiday. Some of those angles are acute, others merely obtuse. Here we have one of each.
Merry Navidad! is a lovely idea and should be fun for families with children ages 5-10. This is not a series of Spanish translations of well-known English-language carols – it is more the other way around. Here are carols from Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Chile and other Spanish-speaking countries, most of them emerging from rural traditions that are fading but that retain long-lasting charm. These villancicos are offered in Spanish and English on facing or following pages, and arranged into such sections as “The Road to Bethlehem,” “Christmas Eve” and “Christmas Lullabies.” Each section is introduced – again, in Spanish and English – by a page explaining the traditions of the Spanish-speaking world and the ways in which the villancicos reflect those traditions. The words, by and large, are simple ones: “
Not so Fartsy Claus, which is clearly supposed to be funny and offbeat but which is simply in bad taste – doubly so because it is aimed at children ages 3-7, who are likely still to believe in the physical reality of Santa Claus. Aside from winning the dubious prize for largest number of odor jokes ever in a Christmas book, Mitch Chivus’ story has little to recommend it. Mike Reed’s illustrations, some of which are genuinely funny, gain the book a low (++) rating, but the story itself is just embarrassingly bad. The premise is simple: someone leaves out franks and beans for Santa instead of the traditional milk and cookies, and