cover image Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas

Ann Tompert. Boyds Mills Press, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-844-9

In the third century, long before ""Jolly Old St. Nicholas"" became associated with the Christmas season, the man who would one day inspire that legend lived in the Mediterranean coastal town of Patara (in what is now Turkey). For this informative picture-book biography, Tompert (Saint Patrick) weaves together some of the most striking legends related to St. Nicholas. Becoming a bishop at such a tender age that he was called the Boy Bishop, Nicholas performed miracles in caring for his people, and his deeds were later to make him the patron saint of such diverse groups as women seeking husbands, students, sailors and more. Though this volume lacks a central compelling drama, Tompert employs a swift-moving chronology to emphasize Nicholas's purity, selflessness and faith. Departing from the style of his previous works, Garland's (Angel Cat; Leah's Pony) jewel-toned, mixed-media paintings mimic stone mosaic work; each element is composed of a mesh of tiny blocks. One quibble: the characters' expressions range chiefly from somber to distressed, and the heavy mood may prove off-putting to young readers. An author's note describes how Nicholas was viewed throughout history, including his modern evolution into Santa Claus. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)