by Ben Sowards
It’s Christmas Eve when a knock comes at the door of Paul’s family farmhouse. A small family is stranded due to a broken-down truck and seeks shelter for the evening. Paul’s grandfather not only welcomes them in, but offers them dinner and a bed for the night. Even though it is a season of giving, Paul’s heart is not filled with charity. It’s the height of the Dust Bowl and food is scarce. Why should he share what little he has with strangers? Worse, in order to help the sick baby, Paul will have to sell his beloved calf to buy a part to fix the truck. Angry, he retreats to the barn, where he sleeps and dreams of faraway Bethlehem. In his dream, he visits Mary and Joseph, and their newborn son, Jesus. The family offers Paul food and shelter and warmth—extending to him the love and charity he lacks and teaching him of the true meaning of Christmas.
Paul's family is struggling in the 1930's, at the height of the Dust Bowl. A poor, young family finds them at Christmastime and are in need of help, but without money of their own, Paul's family will have to sell Paul's beloved calf to help this small family. A dream of another family long ago helps teach him what's really important.
I absolutely loved the illustrations. Each page is done in a way that really conveys emotion and captures what is going on. The love, the heartbreak, the peace, and more are all caught well.
This is the perfect book to read with younger children, although adults will get something out of it too. The lesson is powerful and the outcome is heartwarming, although difficult. Such a tender reminder of the true meaning of Christmas is found within these pages. My nine-year-old daughter read it and enjoyed it, but said it is a little sad. She caught the message behind the story and learned that difficult decisions are sad, but are also very rewarding. This is a story that we'll be reading as a family each year.
A Look Inside...
Ben Sowards is the illustrator of many well-loved picture books, including A Christmas Dress for Ellen, Seven Miracles that Saved America, and Christmas Oranges. Ben Sowards teaches others to paint both traditionally and digitally at Southern Utah University, where has directed the illustration program since 2001.
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