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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Only the strongest and the fastest reindeer are chosen to pull Santa’s sleighs each Christmas Eve. Yes, sleighs. There are too many children around the world and too many gifts to be delivered, so Santa has a secret method of delivering all of these gifts and it involves lots of sleighs and lots of very strong, fast reindeer. Harold desperately wants to be chosen to help pull one of Santa’s sleighs. But, he’s handicapped. He injured his leg at birth and, even though he’s worked hard to become strong, his leg still bothers him and causes him to stumble. That doesn’t hold him back from trying to win the Reindeer Challenge and be chosen to pull one of Santa’s sleighs. Harold believes in trying his best and he stands up for his beliefs and for others with differences as well.
John Skapura’s picture book story, Harold the Reindeer: Secrets of Santa Claus, is a delightful story about a charming little reindeer. The plot is well constructed and, accompanied by colorful and appealing illustrations, the story moves along at a good pace. The story in itself is enjoyable, but there is so much more than just a story in this book. The story teaches young readers valuable lessons about handicaps, disabilities and differences. Harold, with his handicap, his injured leg, is a determined young reindeer who sees everything as a challenge and just tries harder to succeed. Harold also stands up for others. When Jessica was let loose into the forests from her home in a petting zoo, she didn’t know how to survive. Some of the reindeer bullied her. But Harold didn’t. In fact, he stood up for her. Accepting others in spite of their differences is an important lesson to learn. Helping others fit in is a great gift and something we should all strive to do. A great story with a powerful message of acceptance and endurance.