Book Review: Waffles and Pancakes: A Lesson in the True Meaning of Christmas by Cindy Springsteen, Illustrated by Carol Ann Whittle

I received a new Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I “fired” it up, logging onto my Kindle account. Of course, there are shelves and shelves of “TBR” books. Now that the little one is sleeping a “bit” more predictably, I’ve had more time to read. So I clicked on the first book on my shelf, and it was this one. I think I downloaded it when it was free.

Anyway, I read it aloud to my daughter, even though she is too young to really understand stories. As the introduction explains, Waffles and Pancakes have already had two adventures. They are hamsters and friends. This time, their young owners react when Hurricane Sandy brings destruction to the local area and threatens Christmas. The book is for children, and it takes only a matter of minutes to read (the age range listed is 4-8; I downloaded it for my daughter, even though she isn’t quite there yet).

The illustrations are CGI-ish, reminding me of characters in The Simms. Nonetheless, my daughter loved them. The story follows Danny and Griffin as they decide to help their neighbors and community members who have been affected by the hurricane. Partway through the tale, they see a bright light and end up being chosen to visit Santa. They aren’t sure if they’re dreaming or not, and then in the spirit of The Polar Express, they wake up with proof that perhaps it wasn’t a dream. The boys were rewarded for their selflessness.

I loved the message of the story. It encourages readers to see beyond the commercialism of Christmas and determine what is truly important.

What I wished would be different is the pacing of the story. At times, it felt more like a summary than a story. There are vague statements about the boys being helpful or joining up with others to accomplish charitable things, but the most specific thing I remember was the boy volunteering to give up his allowance. I would have preferred less scope and a slower pace. I wanted to see exactly the effect the hurricane had on people. It’s mentioned that someone’s house (basement) was under four feet of water, and that the boys went to help with that, but there aren’t any specifics given. I want to know what it feels like to see such a sight. To see treasured possessions floating in the water. To see and smell what that water is like after sitting so long. Likewise, I wanted more details so I could truly experience the sacrifices the boys were making. It’s a great book to start discussions with children about volunteering and what is truly important, but it seems that parents will be left to fill in some of those details—or children will be left to discover them on their own. The Santa scene was nice, but for such a short book, I felt that a lot of the rest of the story was sacrificed to make room for it.

All in all, a fast and fun read that spreads a message of Christmas selflessness, and for the price I paid, I can’t complain.