Lesley Dahlseng

Children's Book Author and Christian Blogger


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Lesley’s Review of “The Third Gift”

The Third GiftFor the Joy of Literacy!

Author:  Linda Sue Park
Illustrator:  Bagram Ibatoulline

Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park has found her way onto my list of must-have children’s Christmas books for every Christian home, bringing the Christmas Story to life from a perspective I’ve never before heard.  It precedes the wise men’s entrance onto the Christmas scene and showcases those who made the magi’s third gift possible, meanwhile answering the question that so many children and adults alike may have . . . what exactly is “myrrh” anyway?

Park leads the reader into the desert alongside a boy who carefully shadows his father in order to learn his trade, the harvesting of “tears”.  It is a careful process that requires much attention to detail, finding the perfect trees, cutting in just the right place with just the right depth.  It’s an art of patience and skill, all to collect the droplets of sap that each tree cries and that eventually harden enough to be removed intact. 

We’re not only drawn into Park’s creative depiction of this delicate harvesting process and the perfectly matched illustrations, we’re also taken on an educational journey concerning the various uses of myrrh, an especially significant detail foreshadowing the Christ-child’s fateful purpose – sacrifice.  It is a beautiful tale coupled with both solemnity and celebration.

After harvesting the tear of all tears, the boy and his father are invited to present it for sale to three peculiar individuals who had obviously travelled from afar and whose destination especially interested this young tear-harvester.  A gift of myrrh for . . . a baby? 

We are left with these final thoughts from the curious child.  “I watch the three men mount their camels.  I watch them leave the marketplace.  I watch as they ride into the desert.  And I wonder about the baby.”  May we, like this young boy, keep watch over the true significance of Christmas and may we always watch in wonder at His goodness.

For Ages 5+

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Lesley’s Review of “A Very Fuddles Christmas”

Fuddles Christmas

For the Joy of Literacy!

Written and Illustrated by Frans Vischer

A simply perfect beginning . . . “Fuddles was a fat, pampered cat.”  Then prepare to experience Christmas through the eyes of this spoiled feline.  Every cat owner will find themselves shaking their heads and laughing, as it seems a bit of mischief is in every kitty.  Holiday delicacies, wrapped boxes perfect for scratching and chewing and, of course, the tree.  Surely every cat looks and thinks – it’s for ME!  For the first time, this spoiled Fuddles hears the word “no” . . . so much so that he finds himself outside in the very cold snow.  How will this pampered cat brave these new elements?  And how will he find his way back inside?  Not to fear, our adorable kitty finds his way back inside the same way Santa would, though not quite as gracefully.  He is soon back to being just as spoiled, with some added Christmas pampering.

The combination of Fans Vischer’s text and illustrations was fantastic, creating a warm and cozy atmosphere chocked full of humor.  My seven-year-old read it three times in a row!

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Lesley’s Review of “Mortimer’s Christmas Manger”

MortimerFor the Joy of Literacy!

Author:  Karma Wilson
Illustrator:  Jane Chapman
No doubt it’s a challenge to present the manger scene in a fresh perspective.  Yet, Karma Wilson is up for the challenge!  This story is told through the experiences of Mortimer, an adorable little mouse who seeks a warm home in a table-top manger scene.   Not knowing the purpose of these ornaments, Mortimer decides to simply push the baby Jesus and the other manger statues out in order to make room for himself, presenting a parallel dilemma to the original Christmas story:  where will Jesus stay?  Each day is the same.  Mortimer returns to find baby Jesus back in place, and Mortimer pushes and shoves Jesus back out.  It is only while overhearing the Christmas story that Mortimer realizes whom these statues represent.  He remorsefully offers Christ his bed back.  In the end, there is room for Jesus – and there should be room in your home for this book! 
It is a great message with delightful illustrations and a happy ending for Mortimer . . . who later finds the best home a mouse could ever ask for!  You’ll have to read it to see! 

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Lesley’s Review of “I’ve Seen Santa!”

I've Seen Santa

For the Joy of Literacy!

Author:  David Bedford
Illustrator:  Tim Warnes

So many questions and too much anticipation leaves Little Bear unable to sleep.  He wants to see Santa!  Yet, each time he thinks he hears Santa, it turns out to be his parents.  First, Big Bear is caught drinking Santa’s milk.  Then he is caught eating Santa’s pies.  Lastly, Mommy is caught stuffing presents in the stockings!  Will Santa ever come?  Or should it be asked . . . IS there a Santa?

David Bedford masterfully walks the fine line between a parent’s vs. child’s version of Christmas Eve, creating a story that pulls the child’s anticipation right in with Little Bear and makes for a good chuckle from the parents.  But for those parents who don’t want the cat out of the bag quite yet – have no fear.  Despite what may seem like a “close call”, Little Bear never seriously questions Santa’s existence, and we are later satisfied by a jolly picture of Santa eating his pie and smiling at the sleeping family of bears curled up on the floor.  The joke may be on us adults, for “they never did see Santa . . . even though Santa saw them!”

Likes:  Everything.  The illustrations are perfect, and the story captures great feeling and meaning within short, simple text.

Dislikes:  Nothing.

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Lesley’s Review of “The Donkey’s Christmas Song”

The Donkey's Christmas SongFor the Joy of Literacy!

Written and Illustrated by Nancy Tafuri

All the stable animals want to welcome the baby Jesus, and each take turns “singing” their own song by their respective animal noises. The doves’ song is slow and sweet, the cow’s is low and warm . . . such is the procession of gentle welcomes. When it is donkey’s turn, he is concerned that his bray will be too loud. Nonetheless, he offers the baby his “noisy song”, which elicits great joy and laughter from Jesus.

This book is an excellent choice for young children. Though it does not mention Jesus by name, nor many other Biblical details, its lack of details is fitting for the intended age group. The simple and sweet text hold a child’s attention while building just enough suspense for the ending. Meanwhile, it teaches/confirms each animal’s name and its sound. There is also a lesson for young and old alike: that each of us are given a talent that can bring joy to our Lord, even when we think our gift is not as impressive as other’s. In the end, your child will join along with Jesus in laughter at the donkey’s noisy “hee-aw!”

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Lesley’s Review of “A Magical Christmas”

51re8VSv6EL__SY497_BO1,204,203,200_For the Joy of Literacy!

Author:  Claire Freedman
Illustrator:  Gail Yerrill

This book is among my favorites for the Christmas season. If you want a secular book that is not about Santa (rare – I know), then this is the book for you!

Like: The illustrations are both cheerful and cozy, with glitter bedazzling the pages and the text formatted in scrapbook style. Written in rhyme, Claire Freedman answers the question of what the magic of Christmas is – capturing all the little delights of Christmas in descriptions that make you almost relive them, and the concluding message of love really hits home.

Dislike: The rhythm of the rhyme is thrown off in a couple of places, though these are minor glitches that do not overshadow the overall quality of the book.

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Lesley’s Review of “Only Cows Allowed!”

only-cows-allowedFor the Joy of Literacy!

Author:  Lynn Plourde
Illustrator:  Rebecca Harrison Reede

Lynn Plourde sets the scene wonderfully with the arrival of four cows to an excited, though clueless, first-time farmer. We then discover that these cows have a bit of an elitist streak, as they claim the barn exclusively for themselves with a sign: ONLY COWS ALLOWED! As new animals arrive, each one attempts to show that they may actually be cows in order to gain entrance to the barn. They fail each test, of course, but the farmer doesn’t mind. Rather, he indicates that the only animals not fulfilling their duties are the cows. When the farmer decides to throw a barn party for all the animals, the cows finally acquiesce. But who gets the last laugh? The cows! They sneak off to find someplace even better than their barn . . . won’t the farmer be surprised!

Like: I like the tone, creativity, and expressiveness of the illustrations. The text is both humorous enough for a 5-7 year old and yet simple and instructive for the younger reader, confirming the different characteristics of each animal. The length and flow works well for older children. The ending will make the kids giggle with delight.

Dislike: At one point, the story presents the cows jumping over the moon. This seemed a little out-of-place. Nonetheless, most children will likely enjoy this detail which is accompanied by a comical illustration. The text length may get too long for kids younger than 5. Also, some readers may be disappointed by its moral, feeling that it lacked a lesson concerning respect and how to get along.

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