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.
PICTURE BOOKS AND EASY READERS BY AARON SHEPARD
THE BAKER'S DOZEN: A Saint Nicholas Tale. Illustrated by Wendy Edelson. Van Amsterdam, the baker, is as honest as he can be -- but he may have something left to learn. Ages 4-13.
THE SEA KING'S DAUGHTER: A Russian Legend. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. A poor musician is invited to play in the Sea King's palace, where he's offered more than riches. An A.L.A. Notable and N.Y. Times Best Illustrated. Ages 7 and up.
THE ADVENTURES OF MOUSE DEER: Tales of Indonesia and Malaysia. Illustrated by Kim Gamble. Mouse Deer is small, and many animals want to eat him -- but first they have to catch him! Ages 4-9.
THE LEGEND OF LIGHTNING LARRY. Illustrated by Toni Goffe. A cowboy with a huge smile, a gun that shoots bolts of light, and a hankering for lemonade takes on Evil-Eye McNeevil's outlaw gang. Ages 4-12.
THE LEGEND OF SLAPPY HOOPER: An American Tall Tale. Illustrated by Toni Goffe. Slappy is the world's biggest, fastest, bestest sign painter, but he's TOO GOOD -- his pictures keep coming to life. Ages 5-12.
ONE-EYE! TWO-EYES! THREE-EYES!: A Very Grimm Fairy Tale. Illustrated by Gary Clement. Two-Eyes is different from her sisters and others, because she has just two eyes. A New York Public Library selection for "Children's Books 2007: One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing." Ages 7-12.
KING O' THE CATS. Illustrated by Kristin Sorra. Peter is notorious for telling wild stories -- so who will believe him now, with his crazy claims about cats? A Junior Library Guild Selection. Ages 4-12.
THE PRINCESS MOUSE: A Tale of Finland. Illustrated by Leonid Gore. When a young man seeks a wife by way of family tradition, he finds himself engaged to a mouse. A New York Public Library selection for "Children's Books 2003: One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing." Ages 4-12.
THE MAGIC BROCADE: A Tale of China. Illustrated by Xiaojun Li. To save his mother's life, a young man must retrieve her weaving from the fairies of Sun Palace. Ages 4 and up.
LADY WHITE SNAKE: A Tale from Chinese Opera. Illustrated by Song Nan Zhang. When a thousand-year-old snake takes human form and marries for love, she must fight for both her marriage and her freedom. Ages 7 and up.
SAVITRI: A Tale of Ancient India. Illustrated by Vera Rosenberry. The princess Savitri must use all her wit and will to save her husband from the god of death. A California Collection selection. Ages 7 and up.
THE MAIDEN OF NORTHLAND: A Hero Tale of Finland, from the Kalevala. illustrated by Carol Schwartz. Two epic heroes vie with magic for the hand of a sorceress's daughter. An Aesop Accolade winner. Ages 9 and up.
MASTER MAID: A Tale of Norway. Illustrated by Pauline Ellison. When Leif goes to work for the troll, only the advice of a remarkable young woman can save him from his foolishness -- if only he'll listen! Ages 4 and up.
MASTER MAN: A Tall Tale of Nigeria. Illustrated by David Wisniewski. Shadusa thinks he's the strongest man in the world -- till he meets the real Master Man. Caldecott Award-winning illustrator! Ages 5 and up.
THE GIFTS OF WALI DAD: A Tale of India and Pakistan. Illustrated by Daniel San Souci. Wali Dad, a humble grass-cutter, never asked for wealth -- so why can't he give it away? An Aesop Accolade winner. Ages 4 and up.
THE CRYSTAL HEART: A Vietnamese Legend. Illustrated by Joseph Daniel Fiedler. The mandarin's daughter did not really see the boatman who sang from the river, but she's sure he's her destined love. A Bank Street College Best Children's Book. Ages 7 and up.
FORTY FORTUNES: A Tale of Iran. Illustrated by Alisher Dianov. When a young man's wife makes him pose as a fortuneteller, his success is unpredictable. Ages 7 and up.
THE ENCHANTED STORKS: A Tale of Bagdad. Illustrated by Alisher Dianov. The Calif and his Vizier try a spell that changes them into storks, then find they can't change back. Ages 7 and up.