One of our favorite memories of Christmas 2016 will be having read Candy Cane Lane, by Scott Santoro, under our Christmas tree. It is a delight.
Santoro is the author and illustrator of Farm-Fresh Cats and Which Way to Witch School? He has also worked on several animated feature films, including The Lion King, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Gnomeo and Juliet. He is a great talent and deserves wider recognition; it is our hope that Candy Cane Lane is the breakout holiday book of the 2016 season, and that it reaches a wide readership.
The story is about a little girl who lives on the eponymous street. Every house is a marvel of outlandish holiday decoration, each lawn is more elaborate than the one proceeding it. Her house, however, is always empty, as her father cannot afford fancy lawn ornaments.
Just before Christmas, a mighty storm blows in, and the ornaments of Candy Cane Lane are scattered everywhere. A plastic choirboy ends up in the nearby trashbin, and she takes it for her own. Her pleasure is short-lived, however, when the trashmen take it away.
Alone, in the snowy city dump, the choirboy pines for Candy Cane Lane and the little girl. He is befriended by a plastic, illuminated reindeer, and, later, by a discarded Halloween ghost. They decide to join forces and find their way back.
Lost, they come upon the offices and showroom of Giant Displays, where they are befriended by the plastic Giant out front, along with the scores of factory rejects (like Green Santas or giftless Magi) who also need homes.
What follows is a parade of ornaments and over-sized product avatars seeking their own, special Christmas refuge.
It is almost impossible to overestimate the charm of this book. The illustrations have a loose line and sense of fun, and the coloration of the pages is stunning. Each page is filled with work that has real forward momentum … many of the figures seem ready to fly off the page. Santoro also has the gift for capturing ‘glowing’ light, and, better still, the quality of light thrown off by Christmas lights in the darkest of nights, against backdrops of snow.
There is also an antic sweetness to the book that irresistible. Perhaps it is Santoro’s background in animation that makes so much of this book reminiscent of the animation style of the Little Lulu or Mighty Mouse cartoons of the 1940s, produced by Famous Studios and Terrytoons, respectively.
Like the best animated cartoons, it makes the inanimate live, and shows us the interior lives of the objects around us. One could almost imagine a Big Band score to accompany the illustrations – and Your Correspondents hopes that Candy Cane Lane becomes a cartoon itself, some day. The book is touching without being cloying, and smart without being knowing. In short, Santoro has created a little Master’s Class in making the difficult seem easy, all with a wonderful vibe that is both retro and timeless.
Candy Cane Lane is a delicious confection – and our favorite Christmas picture book of 2016. Bravo Santoro – and more, please!