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Smudge and the Book of Mistakes: A Christmas Story Review by Tess Hamre

Author: Gloria Whelan
Illustrator: Stephen Costanza
Sleeping Bear Press
1-866-918-3956
315 Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
http://sleepingbearpress.com/

Smudge is a young monk who was sent to the monastery by his father because Smudge wasn’t warrior material.  Smudge thinks that if you can’t do something right the first time, it isn’t worth doing again. He tries one time and if he makes a mistake or doesn’t do well, he gives up.

His attitude continues at the monastery as he tries job after job.  The monastery is commissioned to create a manuscript of the Christmas Story from the Bible. The Abbott, who is hard of hearing, mishears the name of a recommended scribe and assigns Smudge, whose name is really Cuthbert, to be the lettering. Smudge doesn’t understand why he is chosen and thinks there must be some mistake but Smudge loves letters and his love of the letters is exactly what the appointed illustrator wants.  Though aware of the mistake, the illustrator decides that Smudge will be perfect for the job.

Smudge must first be convinced to practice his letters and then be given time to do the practice. So, although the subtitle for this book is A Christmas Story, the story takes place throughout the year as Smudge learns to practice.  It’s a Christmas Story because of the passage from Luke. I think this is an excellent story suitable for reading all year long, so I won’t be packing this one up with our other Christmas stories.

The book is slightly larger than 8x10.  The illustrations are a work of art themselves and the text is engaging and fun to read. For each two page spread there is text contained on one side and the full size, full color illustrations on the other. The adults and older children in my family enjoyed reading this book aloud just as much as the younger child enjoyed hearing it.  The teenagers also sat and listened as mom or dad read the story.

I love how the style of the text gives a look of a medieval manuscript.  I love the expressions on the faces of the Monks and the little details such as the Abbot cupping his ear because he can’t hear, but what I love most about the book is the underlying theme that there is job for each of us and we may not always do the job so well at first but that it is important to not give up and it is important to keep trying and to keep practicing. This is an excellent book and I recommend it for Christmas and all through the year.

Product Review by Tess Hamre, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2013

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