Primavera is a huge fan of the holiday and decided, after her fruitless search, maybe she should write a Christmas book, "something that takes the magical, fun aspect of the holiday and presents it in a way that's not cliche. Something that you could sit down with a child a couple of weeks before Christmas and the story gets them really excited about the holiday. Something that elaborates on Santa Claus, the elves, the North Pole, and what goes on up there. I went home and decided I would try to do this."
The result is Auntie Claus, a book that reveals some of the mysteries behind the daily operations of Santa's shop. By answering some of those questions, however, a central theme emerges: it is far better to give than receive. This Christmas, Saks will feature Auntie Claus-themed windows; next Christmas, a live-action film adaptation starring Rosie O'Donnell will premiere.
Primavera notes that later that same day, she took a shower. "I'm not kidding. I get great ideas in the shower, and I was thinking about what makes a really good Christmas book. A lot of it is found in the title. A play on words, a play on a song, or an expression, so I started fooling around with titles and words and I'm taking a shower, right? Then I thought about Santa Claus. And I played with words that rhymed: Aunta Claus, Santy Claus, Auntie Claus. And as soon as I said it, the whole character came to mind: an eccentric woman who keeps her Christmas lights on all year long."
She says that at this point, she jumped out of the shower to write all her ideas down so that she didn't forget any of it. "The whole idea was, Is she real or is she not real? And that's all I had at that point. Then I thought, maybe she's the force behind Christmas, the helper or the mastermind. From there I built on that and came to Sophie and the rest of the family. That came a lot slower, but the initial, immediate thunderbolt was definitely the character Auntie Claus."
As demonstrated in her shopping and showering experiences, Primavera's writing process is not necessarily deliberate. "Sentences come to me. And never when I want them to. For example, I'll get the idea and keep it in my head for a while, and sometimes when I'm trying to go to sleep, a paragraph will come to me and I will write it down."
Primavera also illustrated Auntie Claus. Using a technique that she learned and developed as an art student, Primavera covers a piece of illustration board with a specific gesso/pumice stone mixture. She lets it dry, then sketches her illustrations in charcoal and quickly blocks in her shapes with gouache. "Pastels are light, so it's hard to get dark, rich colors." Sometimes, Primavera goes back and re-draws, and then layers with chalk and pastels.
Auntie Claus contains several odd elements - diamond keys, canine butlers, bratty children, an overbearing elf. Are these setting the stage for future Kringle family adventures? "There's going to be a sequel, which I'm working on now. I think what's interesting is that you have this family who, even though they're not living in the North Pole with Santa Claus, all have Christmas-related jobs." Well, are there any other famous relatives in the Kringle family? "You'll have to wait and see. That's for me to know and you to find out," she smiles.
Clearly, Auntie Claus and Primavera are keeping a few secrets to themselves. Copyright 1999 BookPage Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2000 Spring
When Sophie stows away on her mysterious great-aunt's ""annual business trip,"" she not only discovers that Auntie Claus is Santa Claus's sister, but she also learns a much-needed lesson about giving. With their imaginative details and interesting perspectives, the vibrant illustrations lend pizzazz to this holiday story, which offers a whimsical view of what goes on at the North Pole.Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 1999 September #1
A grand, if unsubtle, cousin to William Joyce's Santa Calls (1993). Smug little rich girl Sophie Kringle has a great-aunt who lives in high style atop the palatial Bing Cherry Hotel, vacating only for her mysterious annual ``business trip'' between Halloween and Valentine's Day. One year, Sophie stows away in Auntie Claus's luggage, and ends up at the North Pole, pressed into hard service as an elf. When she catches sight of the Bad-Boys-And-Girls list, and finds her little brother's name on it, she reacts with uncharacteristic, newly mustered compassion, erasing his name and adding her own in it's place; suddenly she's sharing a stage with Auntie, who turns out to be Santa's sister and, having learned that it is better to give than to receive (``the first and final rule,'' as Auntie calls it), is whisked home just in time for Christmas. Tall and slender in fur-trimmed red, Auntie Claus cuts as elegant a figure amidst the North Pole's snowy bustle as she does in her sparsely appointed New York digs; most of Primavera's expansive scenes are underlit to add an air of mystery, and presided over by looming background figures: Santa, the Statue of Liberty, a huge, moon-faced snowman. A promising bid for holiday bestsellerdom. (Picture book. 6-8) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 September #4
A healthy dose of holiday magic abounds in a picture book poised to make a big splash. A little bit Auntie Mame, a little bit Coco Chanel, Sophie Kringle's glamorous great-aunt lives in a penthouse atop Manhattan's Bing Cherry Hotel. Auntie Claus disappears every holiday season on a mysterious business trip and, determined to discover her destination, Sophie stows away and follows her. Larded with scrumptious visual foreshadowing, Primavera's hilariously arch gouache and pastel illustrations are the highlight of this merry confection. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) FYI: The author has established a Web site for the book at www.auntieclaus.com, and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City has chosen Primavera's tale as the theme for its holiday window display. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 1999 October
K-Gr 2-Why does the elegant and mysterious Auntie Claus go away on a "business trip" every year, from November to February? Young Sophie Kringle, whose family loves Christmas so much they keep their tree up all year long, wants to find out. Stowing away in her aunt's luggage, she becomes a worker elf in a place readers will recognize as Santa's workshop. Illustrated with flair in gouache and pastels in deep, vibrant colors, the engaging pictures brim with funny and surreal details, such as Christmas-tree shaped hairdos. The none-too-subtle message-that it's better to give than to receive-nearly overwhelms the story, but the narrative is ultimately successful. Readers will end up cheering for Sophie as she discovers the true meaning of the season.-S.P. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.