Monday, November 10, 2008

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth is new this year from beloved children's book author Dandi Daley Mackall. In it times are tight and Christmas is coming. Jack, the main character, can't believe his eyes when he arrives home to find his mother making cookies. She explains they're for the needy at church. Jack is more than disappointed; they haven't had cookies since Jack's dad went West to find work. As he helps his mother unpack the Christmas molds -- a shepherd, star, camel, king, man and woman kneeling, baby, cross and the biggest, an angel -- he asks why she's going to so much trouble for something people will just eat anyway. His mother decides to tell him the story behind Christmas cookies.
"The story goes back hundreds of years ... to the Middle Ages. In the Old Country -- where [Jack's] father's people lived -- times were hard." The villagers couldn't afford school, so most couldn't read. One family wanted to help their neighbors understand the true meaning of Christmas. The father, a woodcarver, wanted to make figures to tell the story of Christ's birth. His wife knew the people were hungry, so she wanted to bake instead. They decided to work together. The father made wooden molds of all the participants in the first Christmas. His wife filled them with sweet dough. Their children then decorated the baked cookies with berries and sugars. On Christmas Eve the family took their baked creations to the village where a crowd gathered. As the daughter held up each one, the father told the whole story of Jesus' life. "Ever since that night, generations have passed down the art of making Christmas cookies and of telling the story of the true meaning of Christmas."
Jack continues to think about this story through church. His mother gives him the biggest cookie, the angel, as a gift on Christmas morning. When they hear a knock on the door, both hope it's Jack's father. Instead it's a hungry traveler. They are disappointed, but still share their breakfast with him. Jack thinks of his father and hopes some stranger shared their breakfast with him. Jack follows the stranger out into the snow. As he gives him his angel cookie, his only Christmas gift, he explains: "There's a story that goes with it." Then Jack tells him the wonderful news. "A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
The last page of the book offers a little more information of the origin of the Christmas cookie, as well as a simple recipe for sugar cookies.
Deborah Chabrian did a fantastic job as illustrator. Her watercolor illustrations are surprising bold and filled with detail. They evoke a warm, traditional sentiment.
What I Like: My daughter loves this book. The story includes tradition, truth, service and evangelism, all in a wonderful harmony of themes. The illustrations are very nice. I love that a recipe is included!
What I Dislike: It is difficult to tell when the story takes place. I'm guessing it's during the '30s, during the Depression, but this is never really stated in the book. A clear time frame would have been helpful.
Overall Rating: Very Good.
Age Appeal: 4-8
Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2008; ISBN: 0310713285; Hardback; $16.99
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Special Info: See our reviews of other books by this author.


Kristina said...

Tanya, I agree; this is a lovely book! And Dandi Daley Mackall at her very best.

Anonymous said...

My 2 kids liked this book to. We haven't made the cookies, but keep meaning to.