Books have always had the power to bring families together, allowing parents to share powerful, memorable stories with their children. In Santa’s Rescue Dog, Monty J. McClaine adds on to his popular series of children’s book about Super Speed Sam, his family’s loyal basset hound. In the first four installments of the series, readers were introduced to Sam and saw his amazing super-speed abilities in action. No one in the family knows about these powers except for the youngest of the McClaine clan, Molly the baby, but these books actually function as a portrait of the author’s family, couched within a more whimsical context.
This latest book, however, a special Christmas edition of the series, is not about the McClaine family or even the star of previous books, Super Speed Sam. It takes readers far back in time, to one of Sam’s distant relatives – conveniently of the same name – who once met the most legendary holiday hero – Santa Claus.
On one fateful Christmas, while Santa Claus is making his rounds, delivering presents, he gets stuck in the chimney of the house where Super Speed Sam’s ancestor lives. This is a Christmas emergency and Santa has to act fast, bestowing the powers of the Giving Chant on the dog, just like Father Time had once bestowed upon Santa. This gives Sam his super-speed abilities, which he uses to help rescue Santa from the chimney and make sure that all of the presents gets delivered that Christmas Eve night.
The rest of the story ties up the loose ends of the Recovery Elves and the peaceful end to Sam’s night, despite his newfound powers. Each of the brief chapters of the book has a bit of sparkle to it, but some chapters stick out more than others. The conversations between Sam and Santa, the amusing Recovery Elf character scenes and the comical approach that the author takes to Father Christmas himself all make this book a quick and enjoyable read. While it takes five or six chapters to find its feet, Monty J. McClaine does a great job of keeping the story upbeat and engaging for both parents and children.
Although the first half of the book is largely backstory and context about Santa Claus and the Recovery Elves, it makes this book a great Christmas tale that can be read throughout the holidays. This is not just a story that fans of the series will enjoy; it can be a new Christmas read-along classic, since the plot is so different from any other traditional story out there. For fans of McClaine’s series, this installation is written in much the same tone – playful and even silly at times, but always entertaining. It is also interesting to learn more about the origin of Sam’s mysterious powers, strengthening the foundation of the series for future books.
Finally, there are a number of important themes beneath the surface of the story – lessons about responsibility, trust, friendship, family and love. The author isn’t heavy-handed in his delivery of these key ideas, but they pervade every chapter and interaction. Overall, this is a touching book with a great message, and a worthwhile addition to a highly creative series.