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Gabriel's Magic Ornament by Randall Bush

Pristine Publishers, Inc., 0971663300, $11.95

In this delightful chapter book for middle readers, siblings Chris and Laura are feeling pre-Christmas cabin fever. A yard of snow beckons to them for a day of fun, yet they are told to stay inside lest they catch a cold. The children grumble complacently, desiring adventure, unaware that their father is about to bring it to them in the form of a new Christmas ornament for their tree.

A fanciful tale of Gabriel's Christmas ornament, where the person who hangs it experiences an incredible holiday dream, intrigues Chris and Laura enough to share the honor. Suddenly both children are transported to the land of Arboria, where the Orna folk dwell in anticipation of Christmas. As Chris and Laura soon discover, however, the Orna vision of the holiday is not as it should be - an atmosphere of greed and ill-will has cast a pallor over the land. "Maids a Milking" are actually "milking" people of their money, a sweets shop owner has a devious method of obtaining raw materials for her goods, and a convention of Santas is anything but jolly. Guided through each "branch" of Arboria by a mysterious, blue-robed woman, Chris and Laura come to understand the true spirit of Christmas.

Gabriel's Magic Ornament is an enjoyable tale appropriate for the Christmas season, a story alive with Biblical allegory that does not talk down to its young readers (a helpful glossary of terms is included to boost a child's understanding of the Biblical references within the story). Blending Biblical and secular history with a style reminiscent of CS Lewis's Narnia tales, author Bush offers an imaginitive alternative to secularized holiday stories and television specials.

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