I’m so excited for this thirteenth day of December to share one of my new favorite Christmas books. I discovered this book just last week via a favorite blogger’s past Christmas list. I already adored and listed some of her other favorites too so I thought I’d check out a few new-to-me ones that she mentioned and see if I found some new stars. This 1998 Lapland tale that beautifully weaves the story of Santa Claus and the Nativity together has stolen my heart. I am profoundly smitten with it. Allow me to introduce you to The Bearer of Gifts by Kenneth Steven, pictures by Lily Moon (a.k.a. Tim Warnes), 1998.
Because I am a big picture book nerd, I always check the colophon area of every book to see the date it was published, hopefully some information about the illustrations and so on. This book got me interested right off the bat with a historical note included that describes Christ’s birth, the tradition of Christmas gift-giving and the Santa stories, as well as important info about Lapland and its people.
This is all important for the tale that begins and ends with a lonely Lapland wood-carver who sold his carvings across the countryside on a sled pulled by reindeer. One night he is surprised by a new, brilliant star that seems to be inviting him to follow it to something strange and wonderful. He carves its likeness as he ponders it and then sets out to follow it when it began to move.
He traveled far and sold his carvings for necessities until his journey stopped along with the now even more brilliant star. It had brought him to a stable where a manger was filled with straw and upon it lay a newborn baby bathed in golden light. The carver was filled with peace and joy at the sight of the child and to the onlookers astonishment, the baby’s gaze also changed the man’s clothing from his signature blue to deep red.
The carver bestows the child with the last of his carvings, and heads out with a new warmth and a special story to share through his carvings. There are many names for the man, but all credit him as the one who delivers presents to every child whether they have never received or never known the joy of giving.
I am deeply in love with this tale. I have never known a story to combine the beloved Christmas accounts of Christ’s birth and the man in red. Kenneth Steven does it so beautifully. The way he describes the impact of the child on the carver moved me greatly. It is a story written with just the right amount of detail and background combined with the perfect amount of wonder and joy. It is indeed a new favorite.
The illustrations are a marvelous addition to the tale. They are rich, atmospheric paintings that include influences from primitive art and textiles and they sweetly and loosely depict the depth and richness of the moments. [edit:] I originally had a blog linked for a painter named Lily Moon, but thankfully artist Tim Warnes has stepped up to claim his work via the pseudonym (see comments)! Please see his current bio and work at Chapman and Warnes.
I hope you find a copy to savor of this dear book and that you too can feel its warmth and joy along with the carver this holiday season: “It is all I have, … but I give it in thanks for finding you.”
Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas in 2013.