I haven’t posted much about all the Christmas themed books we are reading because most are ones I’ve reviewed here before. We have gotten a few new books out of the library this year but either they haven’t been picked from the basket yet or they are nice enough but nothing special.
This new book by Linda Sue Park is quite special and will definitely become an annual read for us. The story is narrated by a young boy who is learning the trade of gathering “tears” or resin from trees from his father. It’s a task that requires skill and knowledge and the boy’s father is one of the best. The illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline capture the exotic world that the boy lives in but are also warm and familiar in the depiction of the father-son relationship. One day three men come to the market and buy one of the largest tears, the first one that the boy has gathered on his own. He is surprised to discover that they intend to give it as a gift to a baby and as the boy watches the men ride away he wonders about this baby that is to receive such an unusual gift.
The resin is of course myrrh and the baby is Jesus. This is a beautiful book in its own right, the text is lovely as are the illustrations. But what I most appreciated was the unusual subject matter. I’ve never seen a Christmas book that discussed how myrrh is gathered or reflected on the people who would have collected and sold it. I love the idea of looking at a person who was peripheral to an important historical event but who may not understand the significance of their own role in history. Since we read a lot of picture books during Advent I find that they tend to fall into several categories: those that are about the true Christmas story, those that are serious but about “the Christmas spirit of hope and love” and those that are just fun. I like to read them all but I find that my kids are sometimes less excited when they pull out a book about the true Christmas story. After all, it’s a story they know very well and many of the books can begin to feel repetitive. I really appreciated finding this one that is about the real story but from a new point of view that none of us had thought about before.