Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
Illustrator: Deborah Chabrian
Audience: Book jacket indicates story is appropriate for children ages 4-7 but you could really use this book with anyone elementary age and older.
Summary: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie tells the story of why we make cookies at Christmas. It is the Christmas season during the Great Depression and Jack’s dad has traveled out West in hopes of finding work. Jack’s family, like many others, have little money so Jack is surprised when he comes home one day to find his mother making Christmas cookies using beautiful wooden molds shaped like a shepherd, a star, a camel, a king, a man and woman kneeling, a baby, and a cross. She explains they are for the needy at church and Jack asks why she is going to so much trouble to make beautiful Christmas cookies when people are just going to eat them. It is then that Jack’s mom tells him why people started making Christmas cookies. Hundreds of years ago, she explains, in the Old Country, there was a poor village where people couldn’t afford school and therefore, most could not read. As Christmas approached, one family longed to help their neighbors discover the true meaning of Christmas so they decided to make figures out of Christmas cookies to tell the story of Christ’s birth. As the villagers gathered to eat the cookies, the father began: “Long ago an angel like this one brought us the most wonderful news: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Ever since that night, Jack’s mother tells him, generations of people have made Christmas cookies and told the story of the true meaning of Christmas. On Christmas morning, Jack’s mother surprises him with the biggest Christmas cookie, the one shaped like an angel. But when a stranger stops at their house and asks if they can spare any food, Jack decides to give him the cookie and tells him the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth.
Literary elements at work in the story: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie is a touching story told by a third-person narrator wonderfully illustrated with rich, beautiful watercolors. It is set in the Christmas season during a time when people had very little money, likely the Great Depression. Through this simple story, the audience is reminded of the true meaning of Christmas, how a timeless tradition like baking cookies helps convey this meaning, and how important it is to care for others, no matter how dire your own circumstances.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic/ability: In this story, we see how a family with very little money finds a way to continue caring for others who are even less fortunate. But they don’t simply care for them by providing them with food or charity. Instead, they recognize that sharing the true meaning of Christmas, the story of Jesus’ birth, is just as important. By helping his mother in the simple act of baking Christmas cookies, Jack learns just how significant these cookies have been through many generations. Though Jack is disappointed when he finds a poor stranger at the door instead of his father on Christmas Day, he remembers the story his mother told him about the first Christmas cookies. He remembers that many centuries ago, a family decided to tell the story of Jesus’ birth the best way they knew how. They believed that just because people weren’t fortunate enough to go to school and learn to read that didn’t mean they shouldn’t know the story of Jesus.
Scripture: Luke 1:1-4, Luke 2:1-20, Luke 2:40, Matthew 1:28-2:12, Luke 10:27, 1 Thes. 5:14-19,
Theology: Even though Jack’s family is suffering- his father is away looking for work and they have little money- his mother still finds a way to care for those less fortunate. Though she is disappointed when the person knocking at their door turns out to be a stranger and not her husband returning, she does not hesitate to invite him in and provide him with food. She sets an example for Jack and he is moved to give this stranger his prized Christmas cookie. Jack now understands the history of these beautiful cookies and why they were created in the first place. He has learned that Christmas is an opportunity for those fortunate enough to know the story of Jesus’ birth to share it with others. In the Christmas story, we find messages of hope and love and these are among the most important gifts we can give.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why is Jack’s father away from his family? Do you think it was hard for him to leave? How do you think Jack feels?
- Why was Jack excited when he smelled cookies baking in his house? Was he disappointed when he found out they were not for him? Did he get angry or complain to his mother? What did he do instead?
- Why did Jack’s mother tell him about the history of Christmas cookies? Had you ever heard that story before? Why did the family many hundreds of years ago want to make Christmas cookies for the villagers?
- How do you think Jack felt when his mother gave him a Christmas cookie on Christmas morning? When they heard a knock at the front door who did they think might be there? How did Jack feel when he saw a stranger standing on the front porch asking for food? How did Jack’s mom respond to the man?
- What did Jack do when the man left? Why do you think he did this?
- Does your family make cookies at Christmas? What could you do to make this tradition even more special?
Review prepared by Erin Mills, MACE, Entering cohort Fall 2007