Review: Dasher by Matt Tavares
A stunning Christmas tale about how a little doe got her wish.
The picture book market is quite crowded and often books have to be loud or different to stand out. Yet, 'Dasher' is a quietly beautiful book, which doesn't rely on any gimmicks to attract readers but is a traditional, old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness Christmas story that will have long-lasting appeal.
Whether you call him Father Christmas or Santa Claus, there is no denying the magic of the mythology that surrounds how children get their presents at Christmas. Any story that attempts to add another element to it, such as 'Dasher' by Matt Tavares, has a lot to live up to. Any new story must contain its own magical elements, stay true to the existing mythology and feel as though it fits naturally. In this wonderful book, Matt Tavares has managed this so successfully, that I already feel as though this is a classic tale, despite being published only a month ago! We all know that Santa's sleigh is pulled by reindeer, but how did that come to be?
As the story opens, Dasher and her family of reindeer are living with a travelling circus in what seems to be the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. They are penned in and displayed to the curious people in a place where the sun shines and the weather is warm. Dasher has never known anything else, but, at night, her mother tells her stories about the place they came from, with its cool air and crisp snow under the light of the North Star. Dasher loves to hear these tales each night and asks her mother why they can't live there, but they are trapped by the owners of the circus and unable to escape.
One night, Dasher's pen is left open and she seizes her chance. She runs off as fast as she can, with only the North Star to guide her. Just as she begins to worry that she may never find their true home, she meets someone who needs her help and may be able to help her in return.
This is such a charming story. It has so many elements of traditional tales, that it isn't hard to see why this felt like a classic already: Dasher, the youngest of the reindeer, makes a wish upon the North Star and goes on a magical journey to find her true home. The realistic illustrations are stunning and have so much Christmas magic in them that you can almost hear sleighbells. One of my favourites is of Dasher, lying on the snow with the soft light of the North Star illuminated her fur: truly spellbinding. It is a lovely book for the festive season but would make a particularly perfect Christmas Eve bedtime story!
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My Christmas Recommended Books for Children