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The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall

Updated on May 24, 2012
The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by Debrah Chabrian
The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by Debrah Chabrian
Making Christmas cookies to share has been a part of our family's Christmas traditions for many years.
Making Christmas cookies to share has been a part of our family's Christmas traditions for many years.

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall is a realistic Christian fiction story set during the Depression-Era 1930s. Jack and his mother face a pained separation from a beloved husband and father when he hops a train west to find work to support his family. For months, the separation weighs upon the mother and her son while they make do with very little money, cutting back on all but the necessities while they save everything in a cookie jar in the kitchen. Cookies are a special occasion treat and they've been a missing part of the loving family atmosphere since Jack's father went away.

On Christmas Eve Jack comes home to the wonderful smell of licorice (anise) and sweet bread, and he rejoices to think that his mother is making cookies for them, but she apologetically explains that THESE cookies are for the needy at church.

"Jack tried to hide his dissapointment. He had been feeling pretty needy himself lately ."

Jack's mother instructs him to unpack the cookie boards, old-fashioned molds shaped like nativity figures. As he helps his mother make the cookies, she explains that Christmas cookies like these were originally made in the Old Country to share the story of Jesus' Birth with hungry peasants.

On Christmas Day Jack's mother rewards him with the largest cookie, an angel that Jack "could make last an entire week." He cherishes the cookie, but his heart leaps when he hears a knock at the door. He and his mother both hope that it is his father who has arrived to celebrate the Christmas holiday, so they are dissapointed when they see a hungry beggar standing in the doorway. But Jack's mother has compassion on the man and offers to share their breakfast.

I will let you read the rest of the story to find out if Jack's father comes home, and to know what happens to the Angel-shaped Christmas cookie. This story will have your heart leaping into your throat. I am a bit sentimental but I love a good story like this for Christmastime.

Themes

  • Christian Christmas
  • Giving
  • Selflessness
  • Sacrifice
  • Family
  • Birth of Christ
  • Christmas Traditions

Why This Book Is A Favorite

The Gift of the Christmas Cookie tugged my heart in several directions, all of them positive, and left me with a desire to keep our own family's tradition of giving cookies and baked goods to our neighbors and friends.

This story presents appealing characters that we can relate to. Nobody wants to be separated from their family at Christmastime. And during times of financial hardship, our desire to draw close to our loved ones increases dramatically. I related closely with Jack and his Mother, who were trying their hardest to do the right thing even during a time of financial stress.

I loved the gentle, motherly wisdom displayed by Jack's mother, but I like the way that the author Dandi Mackall subtley humanized her by admitting that she was a little disappointed too when the beggar shows up at the door instead of her dearly missed husband.

This book shows a struggling family drawing strength from each other and holding to values that keep them centered in their faith. As the mother gently tells her son the story of the origin of the Christmas cookies called Springerle that originate in Germany, the author also reminds the reader that generations of people have endured difficult times, only to look to the beautiful promise of the Savior and His birth for comfort and strength.

The story ends abruptly, without showing the result of Jack's decision. The gift of the Christmas cookie is the main point of this story, and not the way the gift was received. The lesson of this book is clear, it is far better to give than to receive. This is a timely message for Christmas celebrations, and sharing the sweet message of this book with your family before you do some of your own baking and cookie decorating can be a wonderful way to bring a holiday spirit into an already wonderful Christmas tradition.

Artwork

Deborah Chabrian's beautiful watercolor images bring this story to life and give the story a nostalgic feeling. Chabrian depicts a simple home and kitchen filled with baking tools. The cover image of the book shows a red and white checkered flour sack towel strewn across a well-worn farm-style tabletop with a wooden rolling pin, ceramic mixing bowl, and a flower sifter with a worn, red handle and yellow, red, and blue painted flowers. Metal measuring spoons and cups filled with flour show a little bit of a mess and a red and white ceramic plate topped with warm-hued angel-shaped cookies, bathed in golden light, make this book an enticing visual treat.

Debrah Chabrian's watercolor images contrast the cold, impersonal world of her Depression-era hometown, perhaps somewhere in the Midwest, blanketed by blue-white snow and buried under the soot-filled smoke of a black locomotive with the warmth of Jack and his mother's spare, but inviting kitchen. Make sure to spend a little extra time gazing at the details in these marvelous illustrations. You'll find Jack's drawings on a wall and paper snowflakes in the kitchen windows.

Each page blends Christmassy reds with rich pine-colored greens. Jack's mother's red, white, and green Christmas apron features prominently in the illustrations, visually reminding us that Jack's mother anchors her family to the Christmas traditions that help bring the Christmas Spirit that finally dispells the mood of the family's somber circumstances.

Chabrian is an award-winning watercolor artist whose still life pictures focus on home and hearth, food and family. On her personal web site, she states that her inspirations were Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and Janet Fish.

Christmas Cookies, Bite-Sized Lessons
Christmas Cookies, Bite-Sized Lessons

Comments

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  • Kaie Arwen profile image

    Kaie Arwen 

    8 years ago

    This sounds fabulous.............. still buy my kids at least one book every Christmas..... this might be one! Can't bring it to school though.......... this past Christmas was the FIRST we've had complaints about Jesus in school during the holidays (the holiday program may have seen its last production).......... it was a sad day! Kaie

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Akirchner, thanks for your comment. I agree that the Great Depression was a very difficult time but in some cases a different time when many people were at their best. My grandmother grew up during the Depression in a Masonic orphanage, and she has quite interesting stories to tell.

    Aw shucks Barbara! Hey my husband applied for a curator job in Tucson today! Ironic I think, after your recent hubs about the job market there! Still, as always, wishing you the best.

  • RNMSN profile image

    Barbara Bethard 

    8 years ago from Tucson, Az

    now there you are on the first page with 100!! congrats to you!!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    8 years ago from Washington

    Great hub and love the recipe as well! Makes me think of Christmas and we have a ways to go - but never too early. I love books about the Depression era just because it makes us remember and I think at this point in our country as we know it, we need to be thinking about more important things than celebs and what they do!

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Thank you Hello, hello. As young as I am this means Christmas to me, too! ;)

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for such wonder hub and recipe and book. As old as I am this means Christmas.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Bayoulady,

    Making Christmas cookies always seems to invite the Christmas spirit in. This year I'm going to make an effort to do more baking to share with others! I'm glad you liked the review and hope you enjoy the rest of the story!

    RNMSN,

    I'm glad you found the review uplifting. I've been needing that uplifting feeling, too, lately. Lots of little stresses. It is amazing that something so simple as baking cookies could have such a profound effect on others!

  • RNMSN profile image

    Barbara Bethard 

    8 years ago from Tucson, Az

    I hope they have this one at the library... I cant wait to read it!! thank you Wannabwestern I needed this review and the uplifting feeling your review has given me!!love to you barbara b

  • bayoulady profile image

    bayoulady 

    8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

    A great review, full of teasers, but no spoilers! I'll think of it when I make cookies for Christmas.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Dahoglund, it appealed to me for this reason, too. My grandmother lost her dad at a very early age during the Depression, and she ended up in a Masonic children's orphanage with her three brothers. In the middle of World War II, she married my grandfather who was a German farmer in Indiana. They lived in a sparsely decorated farmhouse and baked Springerle at Christmastime. I couldn't like this book more if I tried!

    Dim, I hope you will be able to find this book too. And while you are at it, pick up a copy of Susan Hill's King of Kings. The title of this story is a little misleading, but will melt your heart to pieces. Susan Hill is a popular author in Britain but not very well known here in the States.

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 

    8 years ago from Great Britain

    I was really getting ínto´that story, feeling the sentiment in my heart,.....when bamm! I have to get myself a copy of the book.

    Thankfully we have a baby due in the family very, very close to dec. 20 --25th, so a new generation to look forward to with wonderful book,.

    I´ve move to England now. I hope I will be able to find the book. ??? Ah Yes, silly me. Amazon...

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 

    8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    Our children are grown and on their own for a long time now, so I don't read many children's book reviews. This one caught my eye because of the depression theme.

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