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The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale (15th Anniversary Edition, with Bonus Cookie Recipe and Pattern for St. Nicholas Christmas Cookies) Paperback – December 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

American Bookseller Pick of the Lists 
Trumpet Book Club selection 
Valerie and Walter's Best Books for Children 
"The good will of legendary Saint Nick resonates in this tale about the origin of the term 'baker's dozen.' . . . Shepard's easy-to-follow retelling has an appropriate Old World flavor." -- Publishers Weekly, Sept. 18, 1995
"A particularly nice holiday story accented by paintings full of detail. . . . Well-paced and a good length for groups or individuals, this is right on target for audiences. Edelson's artwork is filled with marvelously-alive characters who almost step from the pages." -- Ilene Cooper, Booklist, Sept. 15, 1995
"A lush new version of a traditional tale. . . . Well-chosen words and a nicely-paced text that begs to be told aloud. A treat for the holiday season." -- School Library Journal, Oct. 1995
"Aaron Shepard retells a favorite colonial legend with the voice of the storyteller." -- Jan Lieberman, TNT, Fall 1995
"A fine tale of generosity for St. Nicholas Day or any day." -- Marilyn McPhie, Storybag, Special Review Issue 1997
"A story with a message to be heard during the holidays and all year long." -- Children's Book Review
In the Dutch colonial town later known as Albany, New York, there lived a baker, Van Amsterdam, who was as honest as he could be. Each morning, he checked and balanced his scales, and he took great care to give his customers exactly what they paid for -- not more and not less. 
Van Amsterdam's shop was always busy, because people trusted him, and because he was a good baker as well. And never was the shop busier than in the days before December 6, when the Dutch celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. 
At that time of year, people flocked to the baker's shop to buy his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. Made of gingerbread, iced in red and white, they looked just like Saint Nicholas as the Dutch know him -- tall and thin, with a high, red bishop's cap, and a long, red bishop's cloak. 
One Saint Nicholas Day morning, the baker was just ready for business, when the door of his shop flew open. In walked an old woman, wrapped in a long black shawl. 
"I have come for a dozen of your Saint Nicholas cookies." 
Taking a tray, Van Amsterdam counted out twelve cookies. He started to wrap them, but the woman reached out and stopped him. 
"I asked for a dozen. You have given me only twelve." 
"Madam," said the baker, "everyone knows that a dozen is twelve." 
"But I say a dozen is thirteen," said the woman. "Give me one more." 
Van Amsterdam was not a man to bear foolishness. "Madam, my customers get exactly what they pay for -- not more and not less." 
"Then you may keep the cookies." 
The woman turned to go, but stopped at the door. 
"Van Amsterdam! However honest you may be, your heart is small and your fist is tight. Fall again, mount again, learn how to count again!" 
Then she was gone. 
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 07
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhook Press; 15th Anniversary edition (December 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938497480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938497486
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #240,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of numerous children's books, as well as books on reader's theater, children's writing, and publishing. He lives with his wife and fellow author, Anne L. Watson, in Friday Harbor, Washington.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a gorgeously illustrated book that teaches a wonderful lesson about the spirit of generosity. Who can condemn the baker who is perfectly fair? St. Nicholas, cloaked as an old woman -- who shows him that by giving more of his own possessions, he will in turn receive greater rewards. This is a great way to teach young children about the the joy of giving, and about the life of St. Nicholas. The "truth" about Santa is that there WAS a saint who gave to the poor, filled stockings and dropped gold coins down chimneys at night -- this book could launch older kids on a study of the real saint's life and how Santa traditions arose. My six year old boys aren't ready for that part yet, but they love the story of the baker, and this year we're going to try to bake gingerbread cookies to resemble the baker's St. Nicholas cookies on St. Nicholas Day. (Some clever marketer ought to package this book with a cookie cutter and recipe, because the cookies are beautiful!)
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By kaw on January 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
This story tells how the term "a baker's dozen" (13, not 12) may have come to be. Here, a very honest baker always makes sure he gives each customer exactly what he pays for, no more and no less. One day, an old woman comes and demands a dozen cookies. The baker gives her twelve cookies. No, she emphasizes, a dozen is THIRTEEN. He refuses to give in, and she leaves disgruntled--and leaves him with bad luck. Later, the baker has a nightmare about being so miserly and in reality the townsfolk stop coming to his shop. Eventually the spirit of St. Nicholas helps him learn the joys of giving more than is expected.

I think this is the only story about St. Nicholas Day that I've come across (at least, in picture book form) and since we celebrated that as kids, I was delighted to discover it (thanks, Abigail!) The story is well-told and the illustrations are just marvelous. I especially love the first pages that show the sweet Dutch colonial village.

I appreciated many aspects of this story, and the overall message of generosity and giving more than is expected is a good one. However, I was a bit troubled by how it played out. I personally did not see anything wrong with the baker wanting to be fair regarding giving all customers exactly what they pay for. It did not seem to me that the old lady was particularly needy or destitute, just pushy, so why she should receive special treatment when other customers did not (or that the baker, simply because he had other cookies, had to give them away vs. reserving them for other paying customers or his own family) didn't really come across. The baker didn't really seem to commit any wrongdoing, in my opinion, and I felt the punishment was a bit harsh. Of course, the ultimate message is a good one but I felt it could have been delivered a bit better. Still, that is just my personal take and I am not docking any stars because I do think it was a well told story and beautifully illustrated.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Elena Lavictoire on December 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful story to read to your children during Advent, particularly around the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6.

I think this book is a nice change of pace for children who are already aware of who St. Nicholas is and his history as a bishop. This story is set in Albany, New York, probably in the 18th or 19th century. We just know that it was before modern times and certainly before the days of the super grocery stores!

The story centers on the baker, Van Amsterdam, a good baker and honest businessman who gives his customers exactly what they pay for, "not more and not less." Although that is very legal and very fair, it's not exactly fun is it? In the long run it also proves to be bad for business when a mysterious old woman enters the bakery and asks for 13 St. Nicholas Cookies and insists that 13 makes a dozen. When Van Amsterdam reiterates his motto and only gives her 12 cookies the old lady curses him as she leaves with the words, "Fall again, mount again, learn how to count again!"

After that Van Amsterdam's business falls off and his baking suffers. A dream of the good saint and his genorosity turn Van Amsterdam's heart around and changes his business practices. In the end he learns that a few freebies are actually good for business, and for his own heart!

The illustrations are colorful and interesting. My kids loved to look at the detail in them. This is another nice book to read during the Advent season!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Nealeigh on February 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I portray Bishop Nicholas of Myra, the 4th century bishop of what is now Turkey. A local librabry asked Saint Nicholas to spend a day reading to the elementary school children of Tri-Village Schools in New Madison, Ohio. The librarian, Ann Riegle-Coursey, did some research for books with Bishop Nicholas as the central chatacter, books suitable to the children's ages. The Baker's Dozen:a Saint Nicholas Tale was one of the most delightful and lesson-bearing books chosen. I knew that the good Bishop would want to have it in his library for future engagements.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. B. E. on January 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a lesson on giving and kindness. It is also a tale of the "baker's dozen," which is thirteen. Interesting, but I'm not certain it is a good tale for young children. A bit on the scary side for them, and the lesson learned was driven by punishment and bad fortune ... until the baker decides to be more generous and add that thirteenth donut. There are other stories and lessons that are better for young children.
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