The Return of the Christmas Witch

Viking. Oct. 2022. 56p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593350836.
Gr 3-5–The saga of Santa’s twin Kristtörn, the Christmas Witch, continues in this second installment of Plaza and Murphy’s fairy tale-esque narrative. When Kristtörn wakes after centuries buried deep in ice, she discovers a world she doesn’t recognize. Christmas has been co-opted by a cold and sterile conglomerate known as the Kringle Corporation. Meanwhile, in a faraway household, a young girl named Poppy argues with her family that Santa is a fraud, and that her father’s awful company—the abovementioned Kringle—has ruined Christmas. While Kristtörn searches for her brother, Poppy searches for meaning in the holiday. Their stories intertwine after Poppy observes Kristtörn in the woods and begins to leave her gifts. Inspired by the witch’s mysticism, Poppy seeks to learn more about Santa and Christmas from her grandmother and discovers the Christmas Witch’s legend. Kristtörn finds her brother, and an epic sibling conflict ensues. Santa didn’t sell out Christmas; he felt forgotten in the commercialization of the holiday. This story is positively labyrinthine, switching in and out of mystical dreams and “reality.” The illustrations are colorful and evoke early European fairy tales; while they match the story in theme, overall they feel pedestrian.
VERDICT The length and complexity of the text, combined with a meandering plot, will require older readers with a deep well of patience. Recommended for libraries only where the first book was wildly popular with patrons.

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