When two young angels crash-land their shooting star in a shepherd’s meadow on the first Christmas Eve, they begin a journey that may sprout some family rituals in this debut picture book.
On a clear night, a shepherd named Mr. David; his wife, Ms. Elizabeth; and their five children admire the beautiful bright star in the heavens. Suddenly, their lives are turned upside-down by Gabe and Gabriella, two angel children who have come, via a flying-carlike shooting star, to invite the family to welcome the baby Jesus into the world. When Betsy, the youngest child, says she’s sad they have no presents to give the baby for his birthday, Gabe supplies an answer, giving each of them a blank silver coin. As the shepherd family travels with Gabriella to Bethlehem, each coin takes on a virtue represented by its giver: sharing, integrity, friendship, joy, forgiveness, kindness, and love. When the clan reaches the stable, it presents Ms. Mary with the gifts for the baby, which she places in special pockets of a stocking she made for her child. The next day, the shepherd and his family discover they, too, have been given stockings to hang on their hearth, and each is given a similar coin, with the instruction to share them with each other over the year in a charming practice some readers might embrace. The angel children bring the holy family to join the shepherd’s clan for a feast and party, complete with pony rides and birthday cake. Some readers familiar with the story of the first Christmas may enjoy LaFargue’s anachronistic twists, from the family naming conventions to the integration of modern customs like stockings and cake. Others, however, may find these juxtapositions jarring and be distracted by the reinforced traditional gender roles (Ms. Elizabeth bakes for her family as the story opens; only the girls offer to babysit Jesus; Gabriella never suggests driving the shooting star herself). While young readers should delight in Harper’s joyful and colorful illustrations, which navigate the odd tale well, they are unlikely to be patient enough for the lengthy text.
A strange, original Christmas tale that suggests a sweet family tradition within an anachronistic adventure.