Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever by Matt Tavares
Dasher by Matt Tavares
Review Copy from Candlewick Press
Tavares, author of the marvelous holiday picture book from 2017, Red & Lulu, a tribute to the home grown trees that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Rockefeller Center in New York City each year, is back with another holiday story. Sure to read and loved every year, Dasher is the origin story of Santa's eight reindeer that begins not at the North Pole, as you might expect, but in an arid setting with palm trees and a glaring sun.
Dasher, a young doe, lives with her family, working as part of J.P. Finnegan's Traveling Circus and Menagerie where they spend "long days crammed together under the hot sun as an endless stream of curious people jostled to catch a glimpse of them." But, every night, Mama would tell Dasher stories about the magical place where she grew up. There, the ground was always covered with a "cool blanket of white snow" and she was free to "roam under the glow of the North Star." Looking up one night, Dasher asks if that is the same North Star in the sky and Mama tells her, "The very same. We always knew we were home when it was directly overhead."
Knowing that Finnegan is not kind to animals who try to escape, Dasher takes her chance when it comes anyway. Following the North Star throughout the night, she doesn't find the fields of snow but she does find a man and a horse, pulling a sleigh, who seem to need help. It's Santa Claus and his original partner, a horse named Silverbell. Silverbell is struggling to pull the sleigh, it is so heavy this year. Dasher steps forward and offers to help. Asking if she would like to make "a whole bunch of children really happy on Christmas morning," to which she replies, "I would like that very much." Together, Silverbell and Dasher fly off into the night, eventually heading home, the North Star directly over head. Granting her a wish of her own, Santa brings Dasher's whole family to the North Pole where, the following year, all eight of them pull Santa's sleigh as he travels the world delivering toys.