Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Christmas Mystery, by Jostein Gaarder

After getting a comment about this book, I decided to share about it here. I first read the book in 2001, and wrote an enthusiastic recommendation for a homeschool list. It ran thus:


This book is called The Christmas Mystery, by Jostein Gaarder. I can
hardly begin to describe it--it is so unusual, but wonderful.

A little boy and his father go out to buy an advent calendar. They are
doing this at the last minute, as it is nearly (or already) the 1st of
December. Most have been sold, but they find some in a bookshop. They look
at calendars with chocolates behind each window, and calendars with plastic
figurines behind each window, but then the little boy finds an old, old
calendar. The bookseller thinks it looks handmade. This is the one the boy
wants, and so they take it home. The front calls it "The Magic Advent

When the little boy opens the first window, the picture shows a little lamb.
But, at the same time, a mysterious piece of paper falls from the calendar.
On the paper is the beginning of a story. Each day, as he opens the
windows, another short chapter in the story appears.

And what a story! It begins with a toy lamb in a department store coming to
life and running away. A little girl follows the lamb...and that is the
beginning of a strange and wonderful journey. She is joined by several
companions, and she discovers that the lamb is headed for Bethlehem. As
they journey toward Bethlehem, they are also journeying backward in time, so
that they will arrive on the night of Christ's birth.

I can't begin to list the historical references and locations that are
encountered. They visit the locations of various churches, and witness
briefly events in history. As they get closer to Bethlehem and the birth of
Christ, many of the events involve the life of Paul. Oh, they meet the
original "St. Nicholas," too, and his story is included.

Eventually, the little boy shares his secret with his parents (well, sort
of--the parents find the papers and he gets very angry with them, but after
that it's okay), and the whole family gets up at the crack of dawn to find
out what happens next.

This would be so much fun to read during December--just one short chapter a
day. There are a handful of things in the book that I didn't like, but they
can either be endured or edited. This book is just packed with living
ideas, though, that will really help you focus on Christmas! It also offers
a sense of just how thrilling it is that the birth of Jesus has gone on and
on through the centuries, thrilling generation after generation. The author
also wrote Sophie's World which I highly recommend for parents and
discerning teens. But this Christmas book is for everybody, and I'm going
to buy a copy to share with my kids in a few months.


Since then, I have read the book aloud more than once, when my kids were various ages. It doesn't take long for "To Bethlehem, to Bethlehem!" to become a rallying cry, and I'm sort of regretting that I didn't start the book this year on December 1st. Perhaps we should try to catch up.

I have since read everything Jostein Gaarder wrote that has been translated into English (he is Norwegian). His writing is all about opening your eyes and using your mind to think about the wonderful and amazing world in which we live, to appreciate everything and take nothing for granted, and not to overlook those miracles that are so commonplace we hardly regard them as such.

"There are exactly two ways of becoming wise. One way is to travel out into
the world and to see as much as possible of God's creation. The other is to
put down roots in one spot and study everything that happens there in as
much detail as you can. The problem is that it's totally impossible to do
both at the same time."--From The Christmas Mystery

Buy it, borrow it, Bookmooch it. But do read, if not this month, then sometime. You can hardly go wrong with this one.


At 2:05 PM , Blogger gautami tripathy said...

I am yet to read this book. I will try to mooch it!

Thanks for your review!


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