Polacco, Patricia. Welcome Comfort. Illustrated by Patricia Polacco. Philomel. 1999. ISBN 0-399-23169-2. $16.99 Not paginated. A 2-5 PB Reviewed by Marsha D. Broadway Welcome Comfort, a lonely, plumb foster child, is taunted by his classmates. Portly and joyous Quintin Hamp, the school’s janitor, befriends Welcome. Even with Quintin’s encouragement, Welcome finds believing in Santa Claus difficult until the jolly man appears in Welcome’s bedroom and whisks him away for Christmas Eve deliveries. At the flight’s end, Santa give Welcome his golden star pin. Christmas day is celebrated with Quintin and Martha Hamp, but the pin is not mentioned. Over the years, the Hamps are like parents to Welcome--proud of his graduation, his job with Quintin, his marriage to Ruby Jean. The Hamps always travel north for Christmas Eve until the year that Quintin retires as Superintendent of Maintenance. That Christmas Welcome and Ruby Jean are invited north with the Hamps. Arriving at a cabin on the edge of a forest, Quintin hands Welcome a small box. It contains the gold pin. When urged by the Hamps to put it on, Welcome becomes Santa. The story ends as it begins with a portly and joyous Mr. Comfort finding a plumb little boy surrounded by children. With gifted storytelling, Polacco weaves a tale about the magic of love and believing. Bad things happen, but Polacco’s tales often find hope in unlikely places. Her bright watercolors move the reader from Welcome’s humiliations and fears to his soaring success. The emotional impact is similar to Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express. Welcome Comfort is a story for every child and for believing adults.
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