Fat Santa by Margery Cuyler

Fat Santa book cover

“More than anything in the world, Molly wanted to meet Santa Claus.”

This children’s picture book offers a funny twist on the cliched Christmas story about a little girl who stays up to see Santa arrive. Unfortunately, this year Santa ate two much plum pudding, and gets his fat stomach stuck in the chimney. So when the little girl wakes up, she finds Santa growling with exasperation from insider her chimney. “Santa? Is that really you?” the girl asks sweetly.

“Of course it’s me!” Santa growls back. “Who else would be stuck in a chimney on Christmas Eve?”

She ties a rope around Santa’s ankles, but she just ends up yanking his boots off, along with his socks. (Santa’s bare feet dangle from the chimney, as he yells that “My toes are cold! And I’m still stuck.”) The little girl’s next idea is a little sadistic – tickling Santa’s toes – but her next idea finally dislodges the overweight man with the beard. She throws pepper into the fireplace, and it makes Santa sneeze.

The illustrations by Marsha Winborn really give this book a Christmas-y feel — even if it is called Fat Santa. The little girl wears red-and-white pajamas, and her house is filled with festive symbols of the seasons. There’s a decorated tree, and a long green wreath along the staircase where she watches for Santa. And of course there’s stockings on the chimney – plus the jingly bells on Santa’s black boots.

This book was written in 1987, and it’s fun to watch for clues about how Christmas has changed. Molly waits for Santa while plugging in her earphones and listening to Christmas carols – on her tape deck. But the story might be even more timely today, with our concerns about childhood obesity. When Santa falls out of the chimney, Molly even gasps because he’s “round as a snowball” – and from the illustration, he looks enormous!

In fact, Santa’s afraid to climb up the chimney again, even though he’s got one more house to visit that night. He shanghais Molly into making the run for him, and dresses her up in his red coat and hat. “I know you can do it…! Get your boots on…! Scoot…!” I feel bad for the little girl, because it all happens “Before Molly could make up her mind…” It almost felt a little codependent, with Molly enabling Santa’s addiction to overeating. And I worried for a second we were teaching children to laugh at people who are overweight.

But maybe we’re just teaching them to laugh at grown-ups, which is good every once in a while. And the little girl does get to enjoy riding in Santa’s sleigh, which is obviously a lot of fun!

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