A bright debut--Matthews shows a rare command of the story-within-a-story format. In a contemporary setting, seven-year-old Christine is drafted to help her great-grandmother trim the Christmas tree. The appearance of a special ornament launches the old woman into a tale of her childhood in turn-of-the-century Romania. There, lost in the snow on a freezing Christmas Eve, she stumbles upon a traveler and his tame wolf. He helps her home and is invited in for a meal and shelter for the night. After leaving her a gift for the family tree, he vanishes. Van Nutt's illustrations serve as folkloric decorations for a warm and brilliant tale, like a Yuletide fire stoked with memories of lost Christmases.