In this debut children’s book, elves staying overnight in a gingerbread house trade notes and gifts with a family’s kids as Christmas approaches.
Two young sisters, Meghan and Mollie, have an exciting morning ahead. “You’re going to make your very own gingerbread house!” explains their mom. “It will take two days, but it will be beautiful and—if you are lucky—magical.” If Santa’s elves like the house, they might stay there at night. After that? “Just believe in the magic of Christmas, and wait and see,” says their mother. With her help, they make the gingerbread, cut it into pieces with stencils, and mix up icing-sugar mortar, then put it together carefully. Their father gives them a box of miniature decorations—a tiny Christmas tree, a group of carolers, some ice skaters—to make the house lively, because elves like to play. The next morning, there’s a quarter for the girls (rent money), plus a thank-you note from five elves, Hans, Grietal, Stefan, Kirsten, and Franz. As Christmas approaches, elves and children exchange notes and small gifts, such as an Advent calendar. The elves are friendly, but give parental advice and push back against certain requests: “Now, Meghan and Mollie, you know how Santa feels about giving puppies for Christmas” (he’s against it). The girls also befriend a lonely new student in school, Sammy, who’s living with her grandmother while her parents are deployed overseas. She joins in writing letters and making presents for the elves, cheering her spirits for the holiday. Everyone has a magical Christmas. Inspired by a longtime family tradition, Franks offers a warmhearted tale for families that observe Christmas. The notes and little gifts, as well as the vision of elves throwing miniature snowballs and ice-skating all night, are charming, as are Guillory’s (Where Poppy Lives, 2016, etc.) expressive, lively illustrations. But the book does raise children’s expectations for a similar tradition in their own families, and parents should consider whether they want to commit themselves to what turns out to be a fairly elaborate plan.
Imitating this sweet holiday story means work for parents, but looks like fun for youngsters.