Dasher

Dasher
Matt Tavares
Walker Books

In what is essentially a prequel, Matt Tavares tells how Santa acquired his ‘eight tiny reindeer’ made so famous in the Clement Clarke Moore poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.

In the beginning Santa’s sleigh was pulled by a horse named Silverbell.

Meanwhile young Dasher and her reindeer family are living a miserable life in a travelling circus and menagerie owned by the unkind Mr J.P. Finnegan. By night Dasher’s Mama would sometimes tell stories of her northern homeland, a magical place where “The air was crisp and cold, and the ground was always covered with a cool blanket of white snow.” Dasher is filled with a longing to visit this wonderful sounding place despite her mother’s warning about what Mr Finnegan would do should any of his animals attempt to escape.

One windy night as she wishes on the North Star, the little reindeer seizes her chance to make a break for freedom.

With the star as her guide she travels far and eventually comes upon Santa in the woods. He’s halted his sleigh in a clearing to allow Silverbell to take a break from pulling so heavy a load.
On hearing of the children likely to be heartbroken if the toys aren’t delivered on time, Dasher offers to help.

All night long they work …

and Santa rewards Dasher with a sight of the North Star and the granting of his “best wish yet.”

With Matt Tavares’ magical snowy present delivery scenes that are a stark contrast to the early circus ones, this is a story of wish fulfilment with a thoroughly satisfying happy ever after ending.

Get Christmassy

Pick a Pine Tree
Patricia Toht and Jarvis
Walker Books
There’s a real glow of seasonal joy to this rhyming journey of a pine tree from a tree lot to pride of place as a sparkling family Christmas tree.
A family visits the snowy tree lot, chooses a tree and takes it home on top of their car.

Once indoors, space is created, the tree trunk trimmed and when the tree is safely standing, out come the decorations ready for when their friends arrive to join in the fun of adding all the fairy lights, baubles, tinsel and finally to complete the transformation, right at the top, the star.

From its opening ‘Pick a pine tree / from the lot – // slim and tall / or short and squat. / One with spiky needle clumps, / scaly bark, or sappy bumps.’ Toht’s text bounces along beautifully – just right for a Christmas storytime session and a perfect antidote to the plastic ‘take apart’ trees that have become so popular in recent times.
Jarvis’ mixed media illustrations have a lovely vintage feel to them and there’s a wonderful magical final scene.

Let it Glow: A Winter’s Walk
Owen Gildersleeve
Wide Eyed Editions
Cut paper collage scenes glow with 5 white lights  as a boy walks home on Christmas Eve clutching a parcel. At each page turn the lights softly shine illuminating a fair, carol singers, a snowy hillside with sledgers, a frozen lake on which skaters swirl and then the exterior and interiors of the boy’s home.
Told through rhyming couplets, and presumably intended to be shared in soft lighting, Gildersleeve’s spreads offer plenty of talking points in addition to the twinkling lights.

Red & Lulu
Matt Tavares
Walker Books
With a USA setting this dramatically illustrated, touching tale tells how a pair of cardinals becomes separated when their tree home is cut down and taken to New York City Rockefeller Centre to be its Christmas tree with Lulu, one of the pair trapped inside.
Red returns from his search for food to discover his home gone and with it his partner.
Superb spreads, some wordless or almost so, then follow his search for her, the birds’ reunion and eventual relocation in a park.

Search & Find: A Christmas Carol
retold by Sarah Powell, illustrated by Louise Pigott
Studio Press
Here’s a novel take on the ever-growing ‘spotting’ books: it’s the second in a series of classic tales to be given a search and find adaptation by Studio Press.
It’s not so much a retelling of the Dickens’ story, rather it’s an unusual way to encourage young readers into the world of Dickens and this tale in particular, especially around the festive season.
The characters are all there and waiting to be spotted in various scenes – fourteen in all.
There are four ghost spreads including The Ghost of Jacob Marley (with a spendidly spooky door knocker) the Ghost of Christmas Past and The Ghost of Christmas Present; two parties to visit – Mr Fezziwig’s and the one at Fred’s house; a rather grim graveyard scene and more.
Engaging and fun.