On Christmas Eve, Jo and her newborn baby brother, Christopher, are out in the wintry elements with their exhausted, sick mother, Merry.
The story opens as the family is “running from something” through a powerful wind that “elbowed Jo’s mother and kicked her to the ground.” Crossing a field in the cold, Jo risks an encounter with old Franklin Murdock, a widower with a reputation for being mean since he lost his wife and child. Jo leaves her mother to rest and takes the baby into the barn, laying him in a manger. She returns for her mother, but when they reach the barn, the manger is empty. Jo storms to Murdock’s door, shovel in hand, and bravely accuses him of stealing the baby. But Murdock welcomes them into his house and cares for them by a wood stove. When Christmas arrives, Jo has a new appreciation for simple human kindness, and the farmer’s lonely shell is cracked open by the arrival of the homeless family. Soft watercolor washes and pencil illustrations in muted tones often accentuate the words through unusual visual perspectives. The opening image of a scarf blown away from the forlorn family on the ground sets the stage for this lovely, thinly veiled retelling of the Bible story. Jo, her family, and Murdock are all white.
A charming use of a modern setting to convey the familiar theme of the Christmas story. (Picture book. 5-8)