Miracle on 34th Street, by Valentine Davies
From the jacket: “A white-bearded gentleman who appears t the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade fills in for an unfit Santa Claus — and is asked to become the store’s resident Santa.”
My take: I went to the library seeking some Christmas reads and was disappointed by what I found in the adult section. Luckily, the hallway outside the children’s room offered a display of holiday books. Being a longtime fan on the movie, I snatched up this novella. Published concurrently with the movie’s release (both were based on a short story Davies wrote after getting out of the service following WWII), the book’s framework is familiar to almost everyone: When it turns out that our hero Kris Kringle’s MO is to send store patrons to whatever store best meets the needs of their children, he launches a campaign of goodwill that spreads across the city. At the same time, he decides to embark upon a more personal campaign — winning over the parade’s organizer, a single mother, and her young daughter.
As noted above, I found the story to be remarkably similar to its on-screen counterpart. Certain details were changed: At the start of the story, Kris is evicted from the old people’s home because of who he says he is. He also frequents the zoo, where he’s friendly with the reindeer. Alfred, the young man in the movie, doesn’t appear in these pages, while Mrs. Walker and Mr. Gaynor, her neighbor, get quite a bit of extra time devoted to their blossoming relationship.
It’s just different enough to keep you turning the pages. But it’s just similar enough to make you anticipate certain milestones and they occur more frequently than they did for me in The Wizard of Oz earlier this year. It’d be good as both a read-aloud book for young kids and a chapter-a-night Advent treat for the adults. As feel-good a classic as the movie.