EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 8, 2012

Make this holiday read a tradition

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Eagle-Tribune Book Reviewer

---- — Emerson Johansson never expected a Christmas gift, especially one sent decades ago. However, in the new book, “The Lost Christmas Gift” by Andrew Beckham, he receives a box full of memories.

Two days before Christmas, a box is delivered to Johansson’s house. It is wrapped in old and fragile paper. He’s surprised to see his father’s handwriting on the outside. His dad has been dead for years.

During World War II, Johansson’s father worked as a cartographer in France. Judging by the postmarks, that’s where Johansson’ realizes the box has come from, some 70-odd years ago. He wonders where it has been all this time. And with excitement, he wonders what is inside it.

When he opens the box, he finds a book. Memories flood back.

It had been a special father-son outing, the kind that boys eagerly anticipate each year. They set out to find the perfect Christmas tree. Emerson took his new camera to document the occasion, and a flask of hot coffee to keep them warm.

It was a good thing, too, because the clouds rolled in about noon that day and it snowed very hard. Soon, Emerson and his father were lost. They were forced to spend a cold night in a hastily dug snow shelter.

Before they could huddle down for the night, however, Emerson saw something in the woods. It was a small man who carried twigs. Emerson took a picture. Then they saw another man through the trees, who left some coal. The gifts were just enough to get them through the freezing night.

As he looks through the book his father made for him all those years ago, Emerson is amazed. His pictures, the ones he thought were missing, are in the book, along with drawings his father made: drawings made with love.

Okay, I have to admit that author Beckham had me there for a minute. In his brief introduction to “The Lost Christmas Gift,” he says that he’s known Emerson Johansson for years, which starts this delightful story off on just the right note. From there, we’re treated to a book-within-a-book and side-by-side, across the years comments about a special day shared and the incredible things that happened.

I’m not going to give you one more hint here, except to say that if you’re not a believer in holiday enchantment now, you will be when you’re done reading this tale.

This Christmas, start a brand-new tradition by reading this exquisitely illustrated, wonderfully told story together with your family. For you and for them, “The Lost Christmas Gift” is the perfect holiday find.

"The Lost Christmas Gift" by Andrew Beckham c.2012, Princeton Architectural Press $29.95 / $34.95 Canada 40 pages