Dasher by Matt Tavares

Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever by Matt Tavares
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Historical
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Dasher is an adventurous young reindeer with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with her family under the hot sun in a traveling circus, but she longs for a different life — one where there is snow beneath her hooves and the North Star above her head. One day, when the opportunity arises, Dasher seizes her destiny and takes off in pursuit of the life she wants to live. It’s not long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a horse-drawn sleigh — a man named Santa. And soon, with the help of a powerful Christmas wish, nothing will be the same.

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This story handled the sad parts of its plot beautifully. In the opening scene, Dasher and family were owned by a man who did not always treat them kindly. The details of their lives were kept to an age-appropriate level while still allowing older readers to pick up on subtle clues about why that traveling circus was not a nice place for a reindeer to live.

I was thrilled to have a female protagonist in a Christmas story! Most people assume that all of Santa’s reindeer were male, so it was refreshing to have a female reindeer running the show. Dasher was a wonderful role model no matter what was happening around her. I also appreciated the fact that her gender wasn’t made a point of conflict in the plot. She simply existed and went about doing all sorts of heroic things without giving a second thought to the reader’s assumptions about the creatures who pull Santa’s sled.

Speaking of Santa, I adored the scene that showed how he and Dasher first met. Not only was it wholesome, it added so much joy to a storyline that hadn’t included a great of joy up until that point. Seeing how his mere presence made Dasher’s life better brought a smile to my face. I already loved Dasher by that scene, but all of the characters became unforgettable after it.

Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever was a heartwarming tale that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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