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Stay-At-Home Dad: Book’s main character repossesses children’s toys

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Updated: December 5, 2012 6:16AM



He makes a list. He checks it twice. But after the toys are delivered, there’s not much Santa can do.

That’s where “Rodney the Repo Reindeer” comes in. Created by two stay-at-home moms, Rodney is dispatched by Santa to make sure boys and girls maintain good behavior after Dec. 25. Rodney’s authorized to take back gifts until things improve.

Karen Tomko and Laura Heine, of Geneva, authored “Rodney the Repo Reindeer” ($9.99, Tate Publishing). The cautionary tale debuted on Oct. 19. It’s the first book for the neighbors, who hope Rodney’s story becomes a popular stocking stuffer this holiday season.

“We noticed a common trend. After Christmas, the moms we knew were lamenting the deterioration of their children’s behavior,” Tomko said.

She and Heine drew inspiration from the popular book “Elf on a Shelf: A Christmas Tradition.” Here, an elf doll watches children and reports back to Santa in the days leading up to Christmas. The self-published book and accompanying doll has sold more than 1 million copies.

Rodney relies on a door hanger that’s clipped from the back of the book. Parents set the door hanger to “repo” or “return” based on their kids’ post-Christmas behavior.

“Rodney the Repo Reindeer” is being sold on Amazon.com. Tomko and Heine have been promoting the book themselves. The Wife brought home an autographed copy after meeting the authors at a recent boutique night in Chicago’s Morgan Park community.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback,” Tomko said. “Parents of young children love it. One parent with an older child asked us if Rodney could repossess an iPod.”

Having read Rodney’s story to my 6- and 4-year-old sons, I must say the prose doesn’t compare to veteran children’s authors such as Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. It’s the concept that’s most intriguing here. And Rodney is an interesting character indeed. Dressed in a blue jumpsuit, this lanky reindeer vacuums up toys with a snaggletoothed grin.

“We definitely pictured him being a B-Team reindeer,” said Heine, whose mother-in-law lives in Orland Park.

The co-authors have been busy getting the word out about their first book. But they’ve also talked about following up Rodney’s debut with a prequel. One idea is to explore why Santa chose Rodney to be in charge of his post-Christmas repo program.

I’m all for such scare tactics. But eventually those prized holiday gifts find their way to the bottom of the toy box. So the threat of Rodney and his repossessions probably won’t work much past January.

I think we need more scared-straight characters throughout the year. How about Vinnie the Valentine’s Day Snitch? This zoot suit-clad gangster would report back to Cupid. Kids who don’t have love in their heart won’t get heart-shaped boxes of chocolate or cute cards on Feb. 14.

Or maybe Sammy the Spying Squirrel could funnel information to the Easter Bunny? Bad children would get bad baskets — filled with cleaning supplies instead of candy to “clean up their act.” Then again, both of those characters sound subpar compared with a reindeer with Santa’s authority to repossess toys.

Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.

He can be reached at howardaludwig@yahoo.com.



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