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Asleep on the Hay: A Dust Bowl Christmas by Ben Sowards
It’s Christmas Eve when a knock comes at the door of Paul’s family farmhouse. A small family is stranded due to a broken-down truck and seeks shelter for the evening. Paul’s grandfather not only welcomes them in, but offers them dinner and a bed for the night. Even though it is a season of giving, Paul’s heart is not filled with charity. It’s the height of the Dust Bowl and food is scarce. Why should he share what little he has with strangers? Worse, in order to help the sick baby, Paul will have to sell his beloved calf to buy a part to fix the truck.
Angry, he retreats to the barn, where he sleeps and dreams of faraway Bethlehem. In his dream, he visits Mary and Joseph, and their newborn son, Jesus. The family offers Paul food and shelter and warmth—extending to him the love and charity he lacks and teaching him of the true meaning of Christmas.
Every year for Christmas we get a new book. It’s one of those traditions we’ve been able to hold on to throughout all our moves. This year I was excited to receive Asleep On the Hay as our new Christmas book. Books that incorporate a little bit of history while still holding the kids attention will always be a winner in my eyes. Before even starting the story, I explained to the kids what the Dust Bowl was. We then got into the story. With tender hearts my children gasped, cried, and cuddled in closer as they followed Paul through the tough choice of giving up his best friend in order to help someone else. My favorite part of the book was the last page. I won’t spoil it for you, but I just loved how it ended.
Ben Sowards is the illustrator of many well-loved picture books, including A Christmas Dress for Ellen, Seven Miracles that Saved America, and Christmas Oranges.
Ben Sowards teaches others to paint both traditionally and digitally at Southern Utah University, where has directed the illustration program since 2001.
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