The Story: A sad, lonely and bitter woodcarver, known by the local children as ‘Mr Gloomy’, gruffly agrees to carve a set of nativity figures for the widow McDowell and her young son Thomas, in time for Christmas Day. As the ill-tempered wood carver works he is watched closely by the inquisitive boy, who makes greater and more difficult demands of his ability, forcing him to come to terms with some painful memories. Jonathan Toomey was once a happy man with a wife and baby. But since their death his grief has turned him cold and hard. It will take a Christmas miracle to make him smile again. In this heart-warming and beautifully told tale Jonathan Toomey lovingly carves the nativity figures and the miracle begins.
Why is this your favourite Christmas book?
I have read this book to my children year after year at Christmas. It never ceases to move us – even now when my children are teenagers. It perfectly captures the spirit of Christmas in its message of kindness, patience, selflessness and, heartwarming hope.
Can you describe a favourite illustration or give a favourite quote from the story and tell us why you chose it?
My favourite illustration is of Jonathan Toomey illuminated by a single flame, carving the final figure in the nativity set. It is the figure of a mother and child and we can see his inspiration is coming from a framed drawing of his own wife and baby. The lighting is exquisite in this picture and the illustration captures an intensity of concentration, warmth and peace on the woodcarver’s face
My favourite quote:
“Do you ever stop talking?” asked the woodcarver.
“My mother says I don’t. She says I could learn about the virtue of silence from you.”
I chose this quote because it beautifully conveys the warmth and innocence of the little boy, contrasting with the coldness of the woodcarver.
Kristina Stephenson trained at Central School of Art and Design, as a set and costume designer. She worked for many years in the theatre, later moving into television, where she specialized in Children’s programming.
She moved into the world of publishing after the birth of her first child and has illustrated numerous children’s books for both UK and US markets. She is currently writing and illustrating the ninth book in the best-selling picture book series ‘Sir Charlie Stinky Socks’ for Egmont UK. She is also completing the second book in her new picture book series ‘Molly Maybe’s Monsters’ for Simon and Schuster.
Which book is on your Christmas wishlist this year?
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig and Chris Mould
Story Snug’s 2015 Advent Calendar on Pinterest