Matt Tavares, Author and Illustrator
Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes: Animals, Reindeer, Circus, Nature, Santa, Christmas
Opening: “Life was not easy for the reindeer family of J.P. Finnegan’s Traveling Circus and Menagerie.”
Dasher is a brave little doe with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with family under the hot sun in a traveling circus, but she longs for a different life. Dasher listens to Mama’s story of a “magical place” where she and Papa were free to roam under the glow of the North Star, and yearns to go there. One night a strong wind opens the gate to the circus pen. Dasher knows this is her chance to escape, so she runs into the forest with the North Star as her guide.
It’s not too long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a big sleigh. The sleigh is heavy with toys for children and is pulled by a tired horse, Silverbell. Dasher offers her help. She likes the idea of making children happy. Santa attaches her harness and before she realizes it, she’s looking at the ground beneath her and the stars before her. And, soon, with the help of a powerful wish, Christmas will never be the same.
Why I like this book:
Matt Tavares has crafted an original new holiday tale that focuses on the origins of Dasher, Santa’s first reindeer. It is a visual journey that will delight children and the young at heart. It’s message is perfect for the holiday season.
Everything about Dasher is gorgeous and elegant. Tavares’ has beautifully designed his book with luscious illustrations that resemble paintings in muted and soulful colors. The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and pastel. Some pages have double-spreads with minimal text and others have artwork on one side of the page and the story printed on a pure white page. The story is a little longer, but I doubt children will mind at all. They will be holding onto every word of this magical story. The front cover and the illustrations are simply stunning.
Tavares’ story is also about family and the meaning of home. Dasher is the youngest reindeer in her family and is filled with a lot of heart. She has big dreams, a love of family and a wish for a better life for her family. After she helps Santa with the deliveries, Santa brings her to her new home of snow and cold air — the place in Mama’s stories. Even though is wonderful, Dasher “misses her family and wishes they could be together” under the glow of the North Star. I won’t spoil the story.
This enchanting story is sure to become a Christmas treasure that you will look forward to reading aloud to your family each year.
Matt Tavares is the author-illustrator of Crossing Niagara, Henry Aaron’s Dream, There Goes Ted Williams, Becoming Babe Ruth, and Growing Up Pedro, as well as Zachary’s Ball, Oliver’s Game, and Mudball. He is the illustrator of “Twas the Night Before Christmas, Over the River and Through the Woods, Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport, The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, and Jubilee! by Alicia Potter. Most recently he wrote and illustrated the enchanting Christmas tale Red & Lulu.