Tuesday, January 31, 2017

DMI2017, Week 3: "A Proper Santa Claus" by Anne McCaffrey

The story this week is brought to you by the Six of Diamonds, from the collection Masterpieces of Fantasy and Wonder.

To my knowledge, I have never read anything else by Anne McCaffrey. I knew of her, however, because she was famous for her Dragonriders of Pern series. She was a notable author in both the science fiction and fantasy realms, winning awards in both. Based on this story, "A Proper Santa Claus," I believe I would enjoy reading more of her work.

The story opens with Jeremy North, a six-year-old boy, fingerpainting in his room. He's painting a cookie on his art paper, and when he gets it just like he wants it, he picks the cookie out of the paper and eats it. The cookie makes him thirsty, so he also paints a glass of Coke and then drinks it. It's flat, however, because he couldn't figure out how to properly paint the bubbles.

The reader quickly realizes that Jeremy is not just pretending here. He has the ability to paint things and have them exist in the real world. These objects come to life because Jeremy "sees" them as "proper." If he doesn't "see" them, or if other people can't see them in the same way he does, then they remain lifeless. On one occasion Jeremy paints a car for his father. It's one that he says he wants, so Jeremy is excited at the prospect of giving his father this car. But on the way to show his father the car, the paint gets smudged, and his father can't tell that it's a painting of his car. So that painting remains lifeless, much to Jeremy's disappointment.

The story follows Jeremy's budding artistry as he experiments with pastels and other artist's mediums. He finally graduates to three-dimensional art, experimenting with butter and mud (neither of which pleases his mother). He tries Play-Doh but his creations get frozen in place as the compound hardens in the air. Finally, his teacher introduces him to plasticine, and as it's close to Christmas when this happens, Jeremy decides to create a "proper" Santa Claus complete with sleigh and reindeer. This Santa also has a bag filled with pictures of presents clipped from all manner of mail-order catalogs. Jeremy's idea is that this "proper" Santa Claus will come to life and bring him all the presents he would ever want. His teacher has other ideas about what makes a proper Santa Claus, however, which leads to the conclusion of the story.

This is a wonderful, if somewhat bittersweet, story about a young boy's active imagination and its death at the hands of grownups who long ago forgot how to make things "proper." Children have an ability to see past an item's flaws and imperfections, and bestow upon it qualities of being real. Upon reflection, this story reminded me of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit and its journey to "real." Like that story, it leaves the reader a little sad at the end, but it's definitely worth 5 stars.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


  1. Anne McCaffrey! I haven't thought about her in a long time! I remember reading at least a few of the Dragonrider books when I was in Jr High (I think that's when it was, it's been a long time). This story sounds wonderful!

    1. Thanks! I get the impression that her Dragonrider series is young adult, not that that ever stopped me (I'm looking at YOU, Harry Potter). I really need to investigate it further. There are apparently some Dragonrider short stories as well. More fodder!

  2. This sounds great! I've added it to my little list of stories to choose from when I pull a joker.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you stumbled onto my blog.