How would a 5-year-old boy experience the birth of Jesus? Debut children's author Cheryl Malandrinos ponders the scenario in Little Shepherd. She allows her readers to witness firsthand the coming of the Messiah. She transports them to the stable in Bethlehem placing her readers in the very presence of the Holy Family on that silent night over 2,000 years ago. Such a story is sure to make an impact on the mind of a young reader in a way that few books can. The shepherds found under a child's Christmas tree are brought to life. Their story and symbolism become significant and not an afterthought. They are not merely figurines representing some ancient tale, but flesh and blood individuals who were alive to experience a truly miraculous event.
Malandrinos' touch is similar to the style of the classic Rankin/Bass animated TV specials from the 1960s and 1970s such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy and The Year Without a Santa Claus. It is in league with the timeless, quality children's entertainment that endures through generations. It is one of those books that has the ability to become deeply ingrained in a child's memory as one of the traditions that they associate with the holiday itself. What is admirable about Malandrinos' approach is that she doesn't shy away from the holiday's true religious foundation in order to appeal to children through talking snowmen and fun-loving elves. Instead, she brings the heart of the Nativity front and center capturing children's attention by telling the story from the point-of-view of someone their age.
While the title character may have more responsibilities than a child of today, tending to an entire flock of sheep, Malandrinos balances the difference in time period by showing the child-like joy experienced by the adult shepherds at seeing the Messiah. They willingly leave their sheep - even with wolves nearby - in order to heed the angelic announcement of Jesus' birth. He wonders what could be so important that they would do such a thing. Their reaction to the newborn intrigues him, and he yearns to discover what it all means. It is a beautiful lesson for young readers to experience. The most important thing in life is not one's job, status or material wealth. It is God.
Overall, the Little Shepherd will guide his flock of young readers to the true meaning of Christmas.
Little Shepherd by Cheryl Malandrinos is available for $9.95 at Amazon.com and at the Little Shepherd web site.
Review copy was provided by Cheryl Malandrinos.
Promise Me by Christmas mega-author, Richard Paul Evans (The Chirstmas Box, The Christmas List) is one of those sentimental stories that a reader either devours or detests. It is touching, yet schmaltzy; miraculous, yet impossible; feel-good, yet cliche-ridden. The plot revolves around Beth Cardall, who is faced with an array of truly overwhelming problems. Infidelity. Unemployment. Foreclosure. Cancer. Who comes to save the day? A mysterious man, of course. For believers of love having the power to solve all of life's difficulties, this book is a validation. For skeptics who would roll their eyes at such a premise, this is not a work to venture into. Promise Me does not apologize for being a complete escape from reality because that's what it's meant to accomplish.
For those who love to curl up on a snow-filled Saturday and get lost in a Lifetime television movie, this is the book for you. It is melodramatic, full of impossible twists and turns that culminate in a saccharine-sweet, happy ending. A jaw-droppingly handsome man saves a helpless woman from all of her problems - financial, medical, etc. He saves the day leaving her breathless with gratitude and contentment. Without his aid, she would have succumbed to disastrous, life-altering consequences. But he is the one to take charge of the situation leaving her completely and irrevocably in love with him.
The true gem of the book is the unsung support team of Beth's female friends. They are constantly babysitting her daughter, covering her shifts at work or bringing over homemade casseroles for her oven. They are the ones in the trenches with her helping her battle through the problems that life keeps throwing at her door. While not as glamorous or romantic as being championed by a beyond-perfect suitor - the power of women helping women is undoubtedly the true source of strength for many who find themselves in tough situations without a man by their side.
Overall, indulge if you crave holiday fluff.
Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans is available for $19.99 at Amazon.com and at RichardPaulEvans.com.
Review copy was provided by Simon and Schuster.
Congratulations to our winner: Donna Worthington!