Book review: Santa’s Gift

Start your holiday shopping early! Children’s book author Angie Karcher and illustrator Dana Karcher have created an adorable picture book sure to inspire the spirit of giving. Told in cheerful rhyming verse with bright, detailed illustrations, Santa’s Gift is the unusual true story of a giant statue of Santa, and what happens when it disappears.

The story opens with a family in a car looking for “his mitten” as an indicator of home. Stopping at the base of the giant Santa statue, the family reflects on the joy—as well as reminders to behave—it instills in them throughout the year:

He says be good.

We know we should

show kindness every day.

His message is for young and old

who travel by this way.

Watercolor-and-ink illustrations invoke seasons with vivid colors, textures, and whimsical details. Santa grins in all weather with cartoony cheer, and his eventual fading is effectively rendered with pale washes of pink on his once-red coat.

Then one day, Santa is gone. A metal pole where Santa once stood conveys a sense of loss:

No friendly grin.

No bearded chin.

No crimson painted suit.

No friendly hometown Santa

and his neatly polished boots.

When the storyteller spots a giant boot in the woods, the sad image of Santa face-down surrounded by stacks of used tires is contrasted with words of hope (and nice internal rhyme): “It seemed, indeed, he was in need of tender loving care.”

Accompanied by cranes hoisting Santa onto a flatbed truck, “the people came together to give Santa something back.” Tiny people surround the statue to paint, patch, and repair.

The final illustration shows a whole community gathered at the base of the restored Santa statue, celebrating the embodiment of the spirit of giving. In the end, “Santa’s gift” is both the gift of joy that Santa offers, and the gift of love that community members bestow upon him.

End pages tell the inspiring true story of the statue’s history, with photographs of its original construction, disrepair, and crowd-funded, volunteer-organized restoration. Today, Santa stands outside of Evansville, Indiana, on Highway 41N and Old State Road.

Next time my family road-trips, I’m going to add Santa to our itinerary. Santa’s Gift will already be on our bookshelf. Grab a copy for the believers in your life!