If you have ever read Jostein Gaarder's book, Sophie's World, you know this author can twist the plot in such a way as to boggle the mind. The Christmas Mystery is a little more innocuous than Sophie's World, and a little more meaty than most Christmas "fluff" stories. I first read it several years ago on the advise of my friend Krakovianka, who recently updated her original review here.
Our family is enjoying it a second time through this year. It is set up similar to an advent calendar, where one entry per day can be read aloud.
The story of Joachim, a ten-year old Norwegian, begins with his purchase of an old, faded advent calendar which he chooses in lieu of a glitzy one with plastic characters or chocolate behind each flap. His choice is rewarded when he opens the flaps each day to discover an on-going drama centering around a little girl named Elisabet. The drama is written in installments on small slips of paper which are hidden behind each flap on the calendar.
Elisabet, the childish subject of the drama, is on a journey. She is chasing a little lamb who is on pilgrimage to Bethlehem to be present at the nativity. Thus, the journey becomes both a geographic journey and a journey back in time. History buffs will love the incidental vignettes woven into the story. As the journey progresses, more and more members of the nativity scene join as traveling companions.
In the end, Joachim meets the real Elisabet and the twining of several stories come to a culmination.
This book is a nice change of pace from the many syrupy selections that are featured at the big bookstores this time of year.