It’s no secret that Christmas and its festivities and traditions have provided rich material for stories and books through the centuries. A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, not to mention the innumerable Hallmark-style, Christmas love stories and all the wonderful children’s books about Christmas. In fact, there’s really a whole canon of Christmas tales – some profound and moving, some historical, others sacchrinely sweet and sappy, still others charming, fanciful and fun.
This year, through the recommendation of a friend, I discovered a Christmas story that completely transported me to its world: The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan and illustrations by Laurel Long. It instantaneously became a favorite.
Holly Claus is not a picture book, but the illustrations, if you can find the colored version, are absolutely luminous and breathtaking. Even in black-and-white, they are magical.
Ryan includes mythological creatures and recognizable names from history to create this legend centering on Holly Claus, daughter of King Nicholas (Santa Claus) and his wife Viviana, and princess of Forever, the Land of the Immortals. Holly is the first human to be born in Forever and shortly after her birth she, along with the other immortals are cursed by the evil Harrikhan whose pride previously had caused him to be punished by the elders of the universe.
When Holly grows up, she decides she must earn her place in Forever and break the spell that holds her and her people captive.
Her adventure leads her to the mortal realm into Victorian New York City where she befriends a group of orphans and comes to work at a toy store, which is instrumental in the outcome of her future and fate.
Accompanying Holly on her journey are four animal friends, which I wish could be my companions: Tundra, the wise but tender wolf who is Holly’s protector and advisor; Alexia, the opinionated fox with a flair for fashion; Emperia, the slightly befuddled but well-meaning owl; and Empy, the loving and stout-hearted penguin. These four characters provide crucial help to Holly as well as comic relief to the story.
Holly is an admirable heroine. Her heart is pure and good, but she is not a goody-two-shoes. She’s genuine and fun-loving. She’s honest, humble, and brave.
The Legend of Holly Claus very beautifully conveys the theme of the power of love, that love is more powerful than fear upon which evil thrives and is even more powerful than time. This aspect of the story, which plays a major role in the conclusion, reminded me of the Bible verse: “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
Another motif is the importance of hopes and dreams, and without giving away spoilers , let’s just say Holly has a very special gift of discerning the dreams of children and creating something to help them define those dreams.
Ryan’s writing combines the stately tone of a noble legend with the beauty of poetry and the relatability of human conversation and experience.
I really can not recommend this book enough. Read it with your kids or enjoy this gem on your own. It is pure Christmas magic and delight and there’s even a love story interwoven in the narrative as well.
It may be January, but this enchanting legend is sure to keep that Christmas cheer in your heart through the cold winter nights.