Length: 22 minutes
Reader: Judy Bieber
The story: This children's story, written by the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, presents a Santa Claus a bit different from the version that you may know from the animated Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The popular image of Santa was not yet solidified when this story was written in 1904. Instead, Santa lives in the Laughing Valley, not the North Pole, his reindeer don't fly, and he's helped by a host of different fairies and sprites, not elves. All these imaginative details come from Baum's earlier book, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (also available through LibriVox).
One thing that modern audiences will recognize is Santa's inherent goodness. Evil demons try to tempt Santa Claus into being bad, but when Santa rebuffs them all, the demons come up with a plan to kidnap Santa Claus. Although the story resolves itself without any action, this pleasant tale has a fable-like quality that makes for a nice listen on the way to Grandma's house for Christmas.
The reader: Bieber has a neutral American voice that neither adds much to the story nor distracts from it. Her high tone has a singsong quality that is common to parents reading a bedtime story. Listeners who are used to a more active reading may be disappointed, but I thought that this reading was just fine for an amateur recording.
(cover image from a new comic book version by Alex Robinson. Available at multiple online retailers or your local bookstore. See a preview here.)