RANDOLPH THE REINDEER
Written by Sean O’Reilly
Illustrated by Dave Alvarez
Arcana Comics —Nov. 2020
62 Pages Age 4—8
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction, Holiday
Themes: Christmas, Reindeers, Friendships, Redemption
When a beloved family heirloom is destroyed, an ex-hotshot reindeer must brave a deadly snowstorm to reach Santa’s workshop for a replacement . . . before Christmas for one family is ruined forever. (from back cover)
“Once upon a time, there was a reindeer named Randolph. His greatest dream in the world was to one day pull Santa’s sleigh, and help him deliver presents on Christmas Eve!”
Why I like Randolph the Reindeer
Today is Christmas Eve day and Randolph is trying out for a spot pulling Santa’s sleigh tonight. Once there, he says to his coach, “I don’t know why anyone even bothered showing up against me!” bragged Randolph. “I’m too fast and tonight on Christmas Eve I’ll be chosen to fly Santa’s sleigh!” Alas, Randolph takes the turns to fast and crashes. He ends up last.
Randolph quickly bounces back. He decides if he cannot be the greatest reindeer at the North Pole, he will be the greatest reindeer in North Pole, Alaska. He flies off. Landing in a farm, he meets Jamie who has a sleigh but no reindeer to pull it. He asks Randolph to fly his sleigh. Hooked up to Jamie’s sleigh, Randolph cannot help himself. He asks Jamie, “Want to see how fast I can go?” Jamie tells him no; he’d rather take photographs. But Randolph is not listening, he is gearing up for a fast run, maybe his fastest.
“’I’m the fastest reindeer ever! I’ll show you, hold on!’ Randolph bragged.” Jamie became nervous and asked Randolph to slow down. Jamie is afraid they will crash. Randolph is still not listening, instead he is trying to control the sleigh. Jamie’s camera flies out of his hands and out the sleigh. Moments later, the sleigh crashes. Miraculously, no one is hurt, but Jamie is heartbroken. His beloved camera is broken. Randolph promises to get him a new camera, but Jamie wants his camera—the one his mother gave him.
Randolph quickly comes up with a new plan: “. . . Santa will fix this!”
Randolph the Reindeer is a humorous holiday story. Children, especially boys—they like moving fast—will enjoy Randolph’s mishaps as he speeds through the air. Randolph may be fast, but that ego gets in his way. Oddly, tryouts included pulling a sleigh, yet despite Randolph’s “years of training” he had never pulled a sleigh before that morning and he doesn’t pay attention as he flies—even without a sleigh! That’s okay. This is a story of redemption; an arrogant, reckless reindeer learns a difficult lesson.
Randolph crashes a lot. He once flew into a 747! When he reaches Santa’s workshop, he admits he makes bad decisions and that he knows his strengths and limitations. Randolph then asks of the others, “Please believe in me . . .” This is all it takes for Randolph to find redemption and he flies straight and true—and fast—from then on. This is a bit simplistic. He doesn’t take any real action to improve his flying or the ego that gets in his way. Even Rudolph had to go to the Island of Misfit Toys, in a blizzard, to save himself.
Randolph flies to several places, meeting several people in this 60-page picture book. Little kids, used to 16-spread picture books, may become fidgety with the length of Randolph the Reindeer. This, and considering the scenes in this book, Randolph the Reindeer might be better as a chapter book. Page-wise, it is almost the correct length already. Each place Randolph flies to can be a chapter. There would be room to describe things like the “Reindeer Games” and other scenes kids would enjoy expanded, even a little. In the end, a chapter book could be read to younger children a chapter a night, while older kids can read at their own speed.
Warner Brothers phenom, Dave Alvarez, created the wonderful illustrations in Randolph the Reindeer. Alvarez gives even minor characters expressive eyes and emotions children will immediately understand. Most of the humor comes from the art. Randolph smashed against a 747 while the pilot and co-pilot scream in fear and confusion is one of the best illustrations. Kids will love the art. It’s here that Randolph comes alive.
The big problem with Randolph the Reindeer is the punctuation. There are no commas where there should be, or the comma is in the wrong place. This happens more in the second half of the story. There is an influx of exclamation points (68). F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “using exclamation marks is like laughing at your own jokes. After a while, your readers will simply ignore them, or worse, become annoyed by them.”
Randolph asks Mrs. Claus for something he wants to do for Jamie (in addition to a fixed camera). What did Randolph ask for? Readers never find out. There is also an older couple in Jamie’s sleigh when Randolph crashes it. Who are they? Were they hurt? Finally, who is Nikita Krampus and why she is in the story.
Thinking maybe Nikita, who lives in the mountains, (and looks like a goat with her bluish skin, hoofs, curving horns, fluffy tail, large concave ears, and bright eyes), is a character I should know, so I tried to find her. All the references were for Gruss vom Krampus, an evil creature and Santa’s partner. Known mostly in Europe, Krampus follows Santa as he leaves gifts. Once gone, Krampus enters to punish those on Santa’s naughty list. (That’s the mild version.) He is often described as half goat/half man. Nikita seems like a nice character, but has no real reason to be in this story. Which makes me think her inclusion might be an inside joke between creators O’Reilly and Alvarez.
Randolph the Reindeer will make kids laugh at his arrogant comments, his poor flying, and his crashes. This story of redemption works for Randolph. When he thinks of others instead of himself, his flying is not as careless and crashing stops. Randolph’s lesson is a good one for kids to learn. Thinking of others and putting them first can make your ego less urgent and you a better person—or reindeer.
Available at Amazon: Randolph the Reindeer
RANDOLPH THE REINDEER. Text Copyright © 2020 by Sean O’Reilly. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Dave Alvarez. Published by Arcana Comics/Diamond Comic Distributors , New York, NY.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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