Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, Retold and Illustrated by Ned Bustard. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2021.
Summary: A retelling in verse of the story of the life of the real Saint Nicholas and why he is associated with the bearer of gifts that arrive under our trees on Christmas Day.
Now that we are past Thanksgiving, I wanted to tell you about this new gorgeously illustrated children’s book retelling the story of the real Saint Nicholas, in verse reminiscent of Clement Moore’s famous poem. It is one of the first releases in InterVarsity Press’s new IVP Kids line of books, and if this is any indication, this line promises a host of new books for children that are equally a delight for the parents who may read them aloud.
Through the story we are introduced to Nicholas’ birth in Turkey, the early death of his parents and the uncle, an abbot, who raised him in the love of Christ. We learn about a pilgrimage in prayer and solitude to the Holy Land, his imprisonment for his faith under Diocletian, release under Constantine, ministry in Myra, and confrontation with Arius at Nicaea. Finally, we discover the origin of Nicholas’ association with gifts in his loving ministry as bishop and the generous gifts he left three poor sisters on “one very dark night.”
The poem connects this historic Nicholas (who had a little round belly!) with the gentleman who carries gifts every Christmas eve, complete with sleigh and reindeer and assures us that he will continue to do so until the Gift from above returns. The poem moves us away from the commercialized Santa Claus to the real Saint Nicholas and the real meaning of gift giving.
Ned Bustard, an accomplished graphic artist who works as the creative director of Square Halo Books both retells and illustrates this story, with a woodcut illustration that goes with each page of verse. One can read aloud the poem in about ten minutes, but no doubt you will spend more time looking at details in the illustrations like the wee mouse who recurs (you might look together for how many times the mouse appears!), the children baptized in a tub, the confrontation with Arius, and the gifts to the three sisters. As a bonus, there is a link to download free coloring pages taken from illustrations in the book on the publisher’s web page for the book!
This is one to buy or order today to have on hand to read aloud with the children you love in the nights leading up to Christmas. It wouldn’t surprise me if this becomes a family favorite!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.