Book Review: Snow Valley Heroes: A Christmas Tale
Publication Date: August 25, 2008
Publisher: Barking Planet Productions
· Robert J. McCarty
by R.J. Carter
Published: December 11, 2008
"Snow Valley Heroes: A Christmas Tale" is the third installment of Robert J. McCarty's mythology series, "Planet of the Dogs." The concept is a simple one: dogs came to Earth from the Planet of the Dogs (no doubt orbiting Canis Major) to help people whenever they detect a crisis that requires their special, gentle solutions.
In this story, an ancient Christmas is threatened when two of Santa's magical reindeer are captured from their magic feeding grounds by guards who work for the exiled King of the North. Here's an example of the writing from the book as the King lauds his soldier's victory:
The King stood, smiling, and looked at the Captain and the Royal Guards. "I congratulate you. we are all family in this room. We were sent here as punishment because we wanted more for our people. Others wanted to stop us. Now we shall punish them for what they have done to us. We will take away their happiness and that of their children. As of this day, and forever more, there shall be no more Christmas."
It's this kind of narrative that slows down the book, as everything is presented in simplest terms. Characters must act as though the other character did not just have the same experience in order to inform the reader through dialogue. Many of the pages read with the pedanticness of a Little Golden Book -- which is absolutely fine for a Little Golden Book, but quickly bogs down for a story with a novella word count.
The human heroes of the story are Daisy and Bean, siblings who live in Green Valley, far from the Ice Hills, Cold Mountains, Snow Town and Tundra Town that surround Santa Claus Village. They are aware of the presence of the dogs from their prior adventures, and so are eager to help when they learn they are needed once again:
On this day, Daisy and Bean were finishing their chores and their working dogs, Buddy and Robbie, were bringing the sheep back to the farm. Lucy had joined them when they came to Sun Meadows, for despite her size, the little poodle was fearless.
The night before, the dogs had received an urgent message in their dreams from the Planet of the Dogs. And that morning, they had told Daisy and Bean that Miss Merrie and the Dog Council again needed them to come to the Planet of the Dogs.
This time, however, was different. Until they met with Miss Merrie and the Dog Council, they wouldn't know where they were going, who was going with them, or when they would return.
This didn't worry Daisy and Bean, but they didn't know what their parents, Sara and Tomas, would say. The children didn't know why the dogs were calling upon them in this way. The only thing that they could say for certain was that Buddy would stay on the farm to help with their animals and to guard against animal intruders.
As Santa worries about how he'll deliver toys minus two of his flying reindeer, Mrs. Claus has a dream (seemingly the preferred method of communication between healers and dogs) that help is coming. Of course, she must explain to Santa what a planet is, as well as what a dog is, while the dogs and children travel to and from the Planet of the Dogs via the same style of sleeping/waking transportation used by John Carter in the Edgar Rice Burrough's "Warlord of Mars" series.
Of course there's a happy, gentle ending, and Christmas is saved as the King of the North comes to see the error of his ways thanks to the loving kindness of dogs -- many of whom stay behind in this adventure to be renamed by humans, given away as pets, and made into sled haulers.
"Snow Valley Heroes" is best enjoyed in small doses, read to wide-eyed dog-loving children. For adults, however, the writing style and the credulity-stretching idea that Christmas existed before dogs both represent some high hurdles to get past.