The Blacksmith's Gift, by Dan DavisA poor carpenter and his wife live in a tiny village somewhere in Norway. They’re content with their life, but there’s a vacant spot in their souls that has widened over the years as they’ve waited for a child they’re beginning to realize will never be born. Still, they’ve reserved a room in their little house for the nursery, and the carpenter has filled it with furniture and toys, hoping that somehow, someday, their dreams will become reality.

Then, a few days before Christmas, the local blacksmith asks the carpenter to make a very special gift for his daughter. What happens next will change the lives of the carpenter and his wife forever.

Some years later, the carpenter and his wife are boarding a houseful of apprentices. A young orphan girl appears at their door, asking to learn the carpentry trade. This is an unusual request in that day and age, but the carpenter reluctantly accepts her as a student. In the days to come, the girl will indeed learn to carve wood into beautiful things, but she’ll also learn to trust and love again, and the carpenter will rediscover a miracle he thought was lost beyond all hope.

An Orphan's Promise, by Dan DavisMore years pass. In America, an elderly doctor entertains his grandchildren and the young patients at his hospital, as he does each Christmas, with stories of his younger days in Norway as apprentice to a most unusual carpenter. This Christmas is different, though…the doctor’s wife is a patient in the hospital, near death. How can he reconcile his sorrow with the joy of the Christmas season…and can he dare hope for a miracle?

So begins a trilogy of Christmas stories by the multitalented Dan T. Davis: The Blacksmith’s Gift, An Orphan’s Promise, and A Carpenter’s Legacy.

In these three stories, Davis offers a fresh perspective on Christmas, and given the plethora of books in this genre, that’s a notable achievement. These tales feel as if they might have sprung from an anecdote someone’s grandfather carried across the ocean from the old country and shared every so often at family gatherings, embroidering the tale bit by bit until it blossomed into a legend that transcended generations and was carefully passed down from parent to child. In a sea of Christmas stories that feel manufactured and trite, these books are, by contrast, genuine, warm, honest, and substantial.

A Carpenter's Legacy, by Dan DavisIt wouldn’t be accurate to call these children’s books. They’re family books. The stories speak to all generations and reveal the triumph of love and joy over loneliness and despair. They take on some weighty issues in a manner that’s accessible to both children and adults. They’re filled with wonder, and generosity, and hope, and even a miracle or two. These are the sort of books you gather everyone on the sofa to read aloud, with a fire crackling in the hearth and warm cups of cocoa all around. The illustrations are lavish and complement the stories perfectly. A different artist provided the artwork for each book (Matthew S. Armstrong, Christina E. Siravo, Steve Ferchaud) and their styles harmonize nicely without losing the distinctiveness that makes each volume unique and special.

The Blacksmith’s Gift was awarded the Independent Book Publisher’s Association Benjamin Franklin Gold Award in 2005 for best independently-published juvenile/young adult fiction of the year. A Carpenter’s Legacy received the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award.

You can sample all three stories in their entirety at Dan and Jan Davis‘ publishing website, Second Star Creations. Better yet, pick up a few copies and stash them away as stocking stuffers for friends and family. You’ll be glad you did…and so will they.

>>This review is based upon a copy of the books provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<