Guy Bass (text)
with illustrations of David Lopez
(Stripes Publishing)

What does Father Christmas do the other 364 days of the year? Have you ever wondered? Well, I certainly never thought he would be doing that: top secret agent of the Xtremely Mysterious Agency of Secrets (X.M.A.S.), bringing justice to the world and protection from the top 10 in his Naughty List, which includes Dr Cumulus Nimbus, who is dealing with in this particular story. But Santa does not work alone; he has a Little Helper and this time it is Jingle Bells, newly-qualified XMAS agent who has graduated as top of the class (or rather top of the christmas tree) from the Academy . But this is a highly dangerous job, and Agent Bells has secrets of his own. Will Santa and Jingle manage to stop Dr Nimbus from messing with the weather, and attacking the world?

 If you are looking for a traditional Christmas story, look away now as this new offering from Guy Bass is as far as you can get from the tradition. In fact, this hilarious alternative to soppy seasonal tales, perfect for readers who like a little bit more vavavoom in their stories!

Laugh-out-loud humour (hum, not so good when you are reading in a packed train and you are trying to stifle giggles!), a witty use of acronyms (I am in awe of Guy Bass here, it must have taken him ages to work some of those out, especially R.U.D.O.L.P.H.: Rapid Unwrapping Dynamic Ordinance Laser Powered Handgun!) and a refreshing new take on the mystery that is Father Christmas will undoubtedly make this a real winner with its targeted audience. But you are never too old for a bit of fun, and I really enjoyed it too.

I loved the fact that Christmas Day and the present-delivering is just a cover-up for Santa’s “real job”. I think that’s just a clever take on the whole thing. Considering that it is mainly aimed at children who will have probably just about stopped believing in Father Christmas, it is reigniting the flame for them a bit, while making the whole thing even more exciting.

I loved the jokes (my favourite is on page 56 when Santa, talking about mince pies, says “They promise mince …. and deliver fruit. They’re the liars of the pudding world, and I don’t like liars”; my son has been telling this joke to anybody who will listen since I told him). I love the fact that it is heavily illustrated and will be accessible to reluctant readers and older children who might struggle with reading, without it being too “childish” for them. This story has huge boy appeal!
 Jingle Bells is a great unlikely hero, full of remorse for his naughtiness (probably because he can see what happens to those on the Naughty List!) and desperate to please. His clumsiness and general lack of awareness about the effect he has on appeal is endearing.

A great pre-Christmas read!

Sent for review by publisher