The Legend of the Christmas Witch

Dan Murphy and Aubrey Plaza, illus. by Julia Iredale. Viking, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-35080-5

Copper-haired infants abandoned in the Black Forest come to disparate ends in this “forgotten” dark myth. Though young Kristtörn and Kristoffer share the “gift of swiftness” and a life in the woods, the arrival of a cinnamon bun–toting Danish couple—the Kringles—ends with pastry-intent Kristoffer abandoning his sister, who is subsequently taken in by the Yule Witch Lutzelfrau. While Kristoffer learns his adoptive woodcutter father’s trade and internalizes “a strong sense of duty and hard work,” Kristtörn lives “a wild, carefree life in the forest,” learning magic but proving mercurial. When disregarding Lutzelfrau’s counsel ends in a flight to the South Pole, Kristtörn takes up a seasonal search for her North Pole–dwelling twin. Employing fairy tale diction, producer Murphy and actor Plaza meld pagan and Christian elements into blocks of text elevated through Iredale’s moody folk art. Though the story upholds folktales’ neither-here-nor-there ethics, an exploration of male privilege ends up punishing the temperamental female protagonist, undercutting the spooky seasonal telling. All characters read as white. Ages 5–8. (Oct.)
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