Newbery Medalist Park offers a Christmas story explaining how myrrh is harvested and how it came to be one of the gifts carried to the Christ Child by the three Wise Men.
Her story begins with an intriguing opening line: “My father collects tears.” The story is narrated by a boy whose father is teaching him to harvest dried pearls of sap that bleed out of myrrh trees when the bark is cut. The dried sap, the boy postulates, is “called tears because it seems as if the tree is crying.” The narrator explains the various applications of the tears, including the funereal use of the very best tears. The father allows his son to harvest the largest tear during their search, which is then sold at the spice market to three men who are taking special gifts to a baby. As the men leave on their camels, the boy is left wondering about this baby. The mysterious tone of the text and subtle references to tears, blood and mourning foreshadow the fate of this special newborn. Large-format illustrations in a subdued palette are suffused with golden light, complemented by parchment-colored backgrounds for the text blocks.
The cumulative effect of text and illustrations has a sad rather than celebratory feeling, unusual in a Christmas-themed story and therefore refreshing in a usually relentlessly cheery season. (author’s note) (Picture book/religion. 6-9)