It’s time for the ‘A-Z challenge’- a post every day in April (except Sundays) working up through the alphabet. This year I will be writing about books that I read before I started this blog, that were important to me in some way. The vast majority are ones I still have on my bookshelf today, despite a move in house and sometimes many years since I first read it.
X is for Xmas (forgive me on this one- it was hard to find a book for X!)
Book: the Christmas Mystery by Juden Gaarden
What is it about:
Joachim buys an advent calendar, and is surprised to find pieces of paper with a story written on them behind each door, rather than candy or toys. The papers tell about Elisabet, a young girl who disappeared 50 years earlier while shopping with her mother. Elisabet had seen a toy lamb come to life and run out of the shops. As she chased it, strange things started happening. She meets angels, and shepherds and other nativity characters, and she she ended up going on a long journey, all the way to Bethlehem and all the way back in time to the birth of Jesus.
The book is set out as a kind of Advent calendar itself- there is one chapter for every day in advent, leading up to Christ’s birth.
When I first read this book:
We read this book as a family when I was a child, reading it how it was meant to be read, one chapter a day in the read up to Christmas.
Why it is important to me:
It was a lovely part of our Christmas tradition that I remember fondly.
Who should read it:
Children and the Childlike in heart, especially if Christian or open to religious content.
I would recommend you read it as intended- a chapter a day in December. I looked up the book on the internet to check the children’s names, as my parents have it at their place still, and noticed that the reviews were fairly varied- some people loved it and some didn’t- generally those who didn’t felt that it was repetitive, and implausible. I think that a lot of the criticism is probably because non-target audience people are reading it in a way that wasn’t intended. If you read it straight through, then yes the structure may be repetitive (every morning he wakes, opens the calendar, reads the story, then hides the paper from his family etc). But when it is part of a Christmas routine, this is not a problem. There are many things in religious celebrations that are repetitive- you sing particular songs, or say particular liturgies in the lead up to Christmas, you light a candle every week in lent etc. It creates a space for contemplation, for remembrance and for anticipation. In the lead up to Christmas, as a child, the daily cry of one of the characters of ‘to Bethlehem, to Bethlehem!’ which apparently annoyed people, was a reminder that Christmas was coming. As to the issue with implausibility and loose ends- I vaguely remember being slightly irritated at one or two things that didn’t quite make sense, but this is a book whose entire premise is based on magic and odd things happening. As a child that magic was fun and interesting.