Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver – Ned Bustard

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver Ned Bustard
Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver by Ned Bustard
Also by this author: The O in Hope
Published by IVP Kids on October 12, 2021
Genres: Children's, Christmas
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four-half-stars


so the old stories say, Saint Nicholas rides in a magical sleigh. But what is the truth, and what are the legends? Who is this giftgiver, and why all the presents?
At Christmas time, we think a lot about presents, but have you ever wondered why we give gifts? Learn about the life of Saint Nicholas, and learn why he became known as one of the greatest giftgivers of all time. Told in a fun rhyme, this colorfully illustrated book will be enjoyed by children and the adults who read with them. Also included is a letter to parents and caregivers--a tool to help engage children in conversation about the content. Discover IVP Kids and share with children the things that matter to God.

My family is in the minority, but we’ve made a decision not to participate in the Americanized cultural myth that is Santa Claus. Part of it is secular consumerism overtaking the focus on the Christ child. Part of it is the conviction that we shouldn’t lie to our children. And some of it is about the fact that Santa Claus—Saint Nicholas—was actually a real person who had no idea what his acts of generosity would spiral into. Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver is a retelling of the historical Santa Claus, providing readers with a fun and informative addition or counter to the secular Santa story.

On the night before Christmas,

So the old stories say,

Saint Nicholas rides

In a magical sleigh

But what is the truth,

And what are the legends?

Who is this giftgiver

And why all the presents?

Ned Bustard begins his rhyming look at good old Saint Nick with this burning question, then takes us through a history of Nicholas’s life. The right panel of each spread contains a stanza to the poem, while the left illustrates something in Nicholas’s life in a stained glass sort of pattern. Bustard’s rhyming isn’t always the smoothest, but in fairness his topic doesn’t lend itself to easy rhyming. An example:

Soon a very bad king,

Diocletian, arose.

He made faith illegal—

Jailing Nick and all those

Who said they loved Jeus

—in each country and state

But then they were freed

By Constantine the Great.

So, I mean, Bustard did the best he could with what he had. As the story moves on, Bustard moves from this historical figure to the legend, tying Santa Claus back to his Christian roots as a symbol of generosity and love. It’s factually accurate, wonderfully illustrated, and a nice change of tone and pace from the Americanized Santa that permeates everything in the months of November and December.

I also appreciate that Bustard doesn’t tell kids that Santa isn’t real or they’re wrong to believe in him, but presents it as legend stemming from history. He manages to keep the magic of Santa while also retaining the proper focus on Jesus and truth. He makes Santa out to be what he should be: A symbol of Christian love.

This is the first book to be published under the IVP Kids imprint and, I have to say, if this is where they are starting, then I’m excited to see what books they have coming down the line. Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver is a fun, informative, and somewhat countercultural take on the jolly old fellow—one that even this curmudgeonly Santa-denier can get behind.

four-half-stars