I am so relieved to find a Jan Brett book that I finally loved! Her illustrations are beyond gorgeous, but the other few books I've read just didn't grab me. Now I get it though! The neat thing about this book is that there are 2 simultaneous stories going on. The main story is about Teeka who must find and train eight wild reindeer to lead Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. It is a sweet story about the effectiveness of being a patient and gentle leader rather than being a taskmaster. Teeka's story starts on December 1st and in the side margins of each page we see the days pass as little industrious elves make toys and prepare for Christmas. They help serve as both a count down to Christmas Eve and also a reminder the time Teeka has to complete her task. If not for this little addition this could be a rather humdrum story, but these little elves really make this book a special Christmas keepsake. Their little activities are so vivid and intricately detailed.
Just a couple of things to note: First, Teeka is supposed to be a little girl, but she looks very much like a boy. This doesn't really bother me, but could be a little puzzling for younger children. Second, the reindeer are called Bramble, Heather, Windswept, Lichen, Snowball, Crag, Twilight, and Tundra instead of the 'usual' names. Again, this didn't really bother me, but is something that might not sit well with some readers.