Kathleen Long Bostrom's Josie's Gift is a beautiful story about a very difficult Christmas season.
Josie and her family, living in the midst of the Great Depression, will be celebrating their first Christmas after the death of her father. And Josie knows exactly what she wants for Christmas. “She knew as deep down sure as a person could get that this was the one gift she absolutely had to have:” A beautiful blue sweater with shimmering peal-white buttons. Josie’s been visiting it at the clothing shop for weeks now, and has already asked her mother to buy it as a Christmas gift. If she can just have that sweater, she promises she'll never ask for anything ever again. Her mother kindly explains they can’t afford the sweater. It’s all her mother can do to keep everyone fed and warm.
Depressed, Josie remembers Christmases when her father was alive: The church services, the mugs of hot chocolate, and Papa’s special nativity carvings. Papa also had a saying: “Christmas is not about what we want. It’s about what we have.” But this Christmas, nothing feels quite right. Josie wants things like they used to be. And she wants that beautiful blue sweater. She concludes Christmas is really about what’s missing.
Josie wakes in the middle of Christmas Eve night, troubled and sad. But when she walks over to sit near the fireplace, she spots a box under the Christmas tree with her name on it. She opens the box and sure enough, the blue sweater is inside. She is thrilled...but moments later, she’s feeling just as empty as she was before she opened the box. Josie goes outside and begins talking to God: “Are You there? Can You hear me?” She walks into the barn...And suddenly, she feels she’s not alone. A man and his wife are huddled in the barn, with a small infant in their arms. They needed a warm place to sleep for the night. After getting over her initial shock, Josie invites them inside the house, but the family declines. They are fine in the barn, they insist. Carefully, Josie unbuttons the blue sweater and tucks it around the baby. When the mother objects that they can’t accept gifts, Josie says, “Christmas is not about what we want. It’s about what we have. That’s what Papa always told me.”
Josie then heartfully thanks God for Jesus and for Christmas. Because Christmas, the author concludes, is about “what she had, deep down in her soul that only God could give.”
What I Like: This is a beautiful story sure to capture the entire family’s heart. It will fit right in with family readings of The Christmas Carol and The Gift of the Magi. The illustrations by Frank Ordaz are as beautiful as the text. Full of warm colors and a slightly reminiscent feel, they are a perfect fit for this story.
What I Dislike: Nothing.
Overall Rating: Excellent.
Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 4 – 8, but older kids will love it, too.
Publishing Info: Sas & Associates, 2005; ISBN: 0805430202; hard back, $16.99.
Or at Amazon.com for $12.74.