The Adventures of The Bailey School Kids: Santa Claus Doesn’t Mop Floors by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones and illustrated by John Steven Gurney, paperback chapter book, 71 pages, first published by Scholastic Inc. in 1991, this edition published in 2007.
After having to clean up another mess made by the third grade class at Bailey Elementary School, the school janitor quits. In his place, starts Mr Jolly, who looks rather like Santa Claus, and is always turning the heat down to chilly. Messes are no match for Mr Jolly who can have the school sparkling again in no time. And he’s been watching the 3rd grade gang and writing in his little notebook, as if he’s taking notes about the kids. Could he really be Santa?
Santa Claus Doesn’t Mop Floors is a chapter book containing short chapters and a shallow story-line, suitable for children in lower to middle primary school.
It is an easy read, but I greatly disliked the main gang of characters. They were rude, destructive and disrespectful, especially Eddie, who often bullied and coerced his fellow gang members into naughty behaviour. Spreading peanut butter and whipped cream through the school may seem funny to some, but it is still vandalism. I don’t condone these behaviours and I don’t want my children thinking that it is okay to play these sorts of “pranks”. Basically the kids were horrible, and fell well short of the decent role models I have come to expect from good kids books. Even if the writing and plot had been better, I still could not have stepped past the poor behaviour and lack of any meaningful consequences for the gang.
The main theme of the story seemed to be to restore Eddie’s Christmas spirit, through kindness and the presence of magic. However, the plot wasn’t deep enough to really examine the causes for his lack of belief in Christmas. It also didn’t explore why he thought the solution to his sadness and trouble was to be a jerk to everyone else. I would have preferred a bit more moralising.
I did think that I might have been placing too much of my adult (and rule abiding) self forwards whilst reading Santa Claus Doesn’t Mop Floors, so I sought the opinion of my second grader. She also disliked the children in the book, (she too is quite rule abiding and often complains about disruptive kids ruining for classroom learning experience). She thought it was average and not worthy of another read. For a child that devours books of all varieties, often re-reading books I think aren’t great, several times in close succession, I was surprised by her strong disappointment in this Christmas themed book. We will not be seeking any further books in this series, which appears to contain around fifty titles.