Paperback, 247 pages
Published October 7th 1999 by Phoenix Press
(first published 1992)
My shelves: books-i-own, childrens, christmas-books, classics, historical, magical-realism, read, read-in-2011, translated, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Description via Goodreads
The bestselling modern classic. Fifty years ago a girl disappeared from her home in Norway. She ran after a lamb and found herself travelling right across Europe to Palestine, and back through 2000 years to meet the Holy Family in Bethlehem. There she met angels, shepherds, wise men and other biblical characters who joined her on her pilgrimage; and she heard of many of the things that happened in the world in the last 2000 years. In present-day Norway, a boy acquires a strange old Advent calendar. Hidden in each of the windows is a tiny piece of paper. Little by little these pieces unfold the girl's story, and as we learn what happened to her, another story is revealed - that of the strange old man who made the calendar.
It's really quite a risky thing to try and retell one of (if not the) most well known stories in the world, especially if you're going to put a twist on it. However, I'm pleased that Gaarder did it because he managed to execute it very well. The choice of chick-lit Christmas themed stories is bountiful, and I do enjoy them, but to be able to read a different take on the original Christmas story is a rare treat.
I believe this book was primarily targeted at Children, but this could certainly be classed as a family book. Gaarder shares an important story and he also incorporates some more philosophical questions in this book - infact, because of this, I'd probably recommend it more for older children, perhaps 8yrs +.
The story of the birth of Christ is retold in this book, in the form of following young girl named Elisabet as she travels through different countries and time, retracing the steps of several biblical characters (sheep included), as they make their way to Bethlehem.
This story as staged as a story inside another story. The protagonist, Joachim, stumbles across a magical Advent calendar in an old bookshop, and each day he opens a new window, another part of the story is revealed. Reading this book during Advent was fantastic and like Joachim and his parents, I was eager and excited for another window to be opened to see what happened next during Elisabet's journey.
The Advent format of this book was really exciting and it wouldn't be a bad idea to use this book as a type of calendar itself (if you could resist reading on!). I'd urge people to pick this up for a slightly different, easy to read but interesting Christmas read.