Claus Bruce” by the talented Ryan T. Higgins is a picture book that is certainly as much fun (or more) for adults to read as it is for the kids listening to the story. Higgins’ wry humor coupled with the extremely expressive illustrations make for a wonderfully satisfying picture book experience.
It’s winter and Bruce wants to stay in bed, but the mice and geese have other ideas. They want holiday spirit, and they want lots of it. They deck the halls, make eggnog, and put up the Christmas tree. Needless to say, Bruce is not in the holiday mood.
While outside, grumpily shoveling snow dressed in long underwear and a warm hat, Bruce suffers from (another) case of mistaken identity. (Higgins’ fans will remember that the first case of mistaken identity was when the goslings mistook Bruce for their mother in the first book in this wonderfully humorous and touching series.) And so Bruce has now become Santa.
The hilarity and confusion continue as Bruce and the others, the geese and mice, have opposing agendas. Longtime readers know which agenda wins, and so Bruce is Santa and — unwillingly — brings a bunch of holiday cheer to all those around him.
Adults will love the double entendres as the erudite mice discuss bears and weather. “Actually, bears don’t hibernate. They spend the winter in a state of lethargy.” Another mouse responds, “I thought we were spending winter in the state of Maine.” There is one illustration of the bunny home with Mama Bunny, Papa Bunny, the baby bunnies, and the “grown-up bunny who still lives with his parents.” Kids won’t get it, but the adults reading it will.
Kids love the grumpy adult-figure and the clever and determined mice and geese and other forest animals. It’s a heartwarming Christmas tale that will be enjoyed all winter long and well into Spring.
For younger Bruce fans, get “1 Grumpy Bruce: a counting book” by Higgins. In this sturdy board book are all the adorable forest figures (and elephants) from “1 grumpy bear” to “10 woodchucks chucking wood.” And although it’s “just” a counting board book, there is still a clever twist at the end. Trust Higgins to make a counting board book more than just a book of numbers.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes.