Santa’s Puppy

HMH. Oct. 2019. 240p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780358051848.
Gr 3-5–Santa’s curious puppy, Peppermint Bark, dreams of joining Santa and his reindeer on their annual toy delivery adventures. Santa is firm when he tells the puppy to stay home with Mrs. Claus and the elves. He warns Peppermint Bark that if they should get separated during the trip, it will be nearly impossible for Santa to find him. The sleigh travels through portals hidden all over the earth and once the last time zone strikes midnight, the gates of the North Pole will close for an entire year, not to open again until next Christmas. The gates are controlled by mysterious magic and even Santa can’t open them. Despite the warning, Peppermint Bark predictably stows away on the sled and gets separated from Santa. Luckily, he is discovered by a loving boy named Chris and his family. In a nod to Santa’s bells in Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express, Chris is able to understand what Peppermint Bark is saying because he still has the Christmas spirit. His older sister Holly is growing up and can barely hear what the puppy is saying, but her friend Ivy clearly understands Peppermint Bark. Ivy becomes a friendly liaison between Chris and his sister in the sibling relationship sub-theme of the story. The kids and Peppermint Bark embark on a day-long romp around their town to find the hidden portals that will take the dog home to the North Pole before the magical gates close. A prolific middle grade writer, Hapka presents a simple, fun Christmas story that will delight animal lovers during the holidays.
VERDICT A secondary purchase for collections where animal books and Christmas stories are in demand.

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