Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Review: The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett, with illustrations by Poly Bernatene

Bradley Bartleby is bad - VERY BAD - and Santa Claus knows it . So when Bradley empties his stocking to find nothing but a pair of socks, he hatches a devious plan. If Santa won't give him the gifts he wants, Bradley will just have to steal them ...

With dynamite, trapdoors and a tiger or two, Santa doesn't stand a chance. Or does he?

Upon finishing this book the first thing I did was a quick internet search for the author's names, just to see whether he really existed or was in fact a pseudonym for Tim Burton for in my opinion The Santa Trap is up there with The Nightmare Before Christmas as a perfect alternative (and dark) Christmas story. It is certainly the perfect antidote to those saccharine sweet Christmas stories and fairy tales that get wheeled out every year, and it would be a crime if this does not one day find itself on the screen, whether big or small.

The Santa Trap is the story of Bradley Bartleby, a truly despicable child who, in the words of the story, was "born bad". Bradley is every spoiled and demanding child you have ever come across, all rolled into one nasty package that his parents are terrified of. As such he gets everything he wants (including an elephant as a house pet), when he wants it...... except for that one special time of the year. For Father Christmas knows about Bradley, and doesn't even bother to read the extensive list of presents Bradley demands every year. However, being a kindly old soul Santa does not want Bradley to go completely empty-handed and so each year he leaves him the same, simple gift..... a pair of socks.

Following another disappointing Christmas morning Bradley decides that enough is enough, and that he is going to set a trap for Santa, a trap that will take all year to create. And so, through Poly Bernatene's wonderfully dark illustrations we see him construct the ultimate scenario, including tigers, guillotines, explosives and trap doors. Come the following Christmas Eve Bradley then sits alone, waiting for his prey to arrive (his parents, by the way, have taken themselves off to a hotel, as their home is now far too dangerous to be living in). He sits and waits, and waits and sits, until......... 

What? You think I'm going to give away the rest of the story and ruin it for you? No way!

This book is a fantastic picture story, although some younger (more delicate and fragile) children may find the concept of blowing up Father Christmas and/or feeding him to ravenous tigers a little too upsetting. Jonathan Emmett's words are funny and well paced, but for me the real strong point of the book is the illustrations. Poly Bernatene has done an incredible job in creating the image of this truly nasty boy - imagine the young Damien from The Omen, but looking fifty times as evil and devious and you will be pretty close to having a good mental picture of this young devil.

The Santa Trap is published by Macmillan, to whom my thanks go for sending me a copy to review.

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