Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

I can't hold it in any longer! I HAVE to share this treasure a friend shared with me this year (thank you, M!). File this idea away for next Advent! My daughter and I are reading The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder that we borrowed from the public library. Each day in December, leading up to Christmas, you read one chapter. Below is the description from the book jacket:

"In the corner of a dusty old bookstore, Joachim discovers a magic Advent calendar. When he opens the first door on December 1, a small piece of paper falls out. On it is the beginning of a story about a little girl named Elisabet. One December many years ago, Elisabet follows a white lamb straight out of Joachim's town and on to an amazing journey. She travels back through time and down through Europe to be present - along with the Wise Men and the shepherds, and other familiar figures - at the birth of Jesus. Each of the twenty-four windows in the calendar hides another chapter in Elisabet's story, along with illustrations. Through the mysterious calendar, Joachim and his parents get a new sense of the Nativity story and the meaning of Christmas. But they also start to wonder: Who was this Elisabet and where is she now? On Christmas Eve, all the pieces of this puzzle come together. Using his historical insight and playful imagination, Jostein Gaarder has created a unique and exciting holiday story for the whole family. Beautifully illustrated by Rosemary Wells, The Christmas Mystery will make a wonderful permanent addition to the literature of Christmas."

So...the whole story is about this girl who travels across Europe and back through time (simultaneously) with some angels and other "travellers" to Bethlehem. But, it is also about a modern Norwegian boy, Joachim, and his family who discover this story and make sense of it (originally written in Norwegian). We're not done yet, but I can tell the ending will truly be beautiful!

The reason I have to share it with you (particularly if you use a Charlotte-Mason style curriculum) is that every day is an opportunity for some incredible learning! Because they travel across Europe, they identify the cities and towns through which they travel. The modern dad even gets out a map and starts tracking their journey, and the family sometimes grabs an encyclopedia or the Bible to look up an event or person. Plus, because they travel back in time, they go through historical times and places, giving details about customs and events of those times. Can you see this becoming an amazing journey for your students?

I definitely want to buy this gem for our home library and use it exclusively as our curriculum during several Decembers. When we start doing a Century Book, this will be amazing to mark the times the travellers journey through, but a timeline might be a simpler start. I hope to find a bigger map of Europe to use and track their journey, as well. Each day includes geography and history, besides some Biblical events and the wonderful literary technique of a story within a story. It's all there! The trick is not reading ahead, which my daughter has done a couple of times.

The awakening of faith the family demonstrates is wonderful in building the anticipation for Christ's birth and travelling to Bethlehem along with them. May your Christmas be blessed, and may your children travel to the magic of Bethlehem on that Holy Night!

Side Note: My son and I are reading Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider, which my daughter and I enjoyed last year (and she still begs to sit in on the readings this year). It also has one story a day for Advent, but is simpler, following a small bear on his journey to Bethlehem.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Following your recommendations, I picked up both of these books. They are wonderful!!!!! I read the Christmas mystery with my oldest (6) and each night he was disappointed when it ended. I read the other with all 3 (6, 4 & 23 months) and they loved it too. Such great art work.

Unfortunately I didn't have my act together enough to take advantage of the geography/history possibilities, hopefully this year (2010)! Thanks so much!