Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Dasher Book Poster Image
Reindeer's origin story has striking art, lots of heart.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids can compare this newly imagined reindeer tale with other stories they've read or watched involving the famous members of Santa's sled-pulling team. 

Positive Messages

It's kind to offer to help when someone's having a hard time getting the job done. It's nice to keep your family members in mind, even after you go off and do your own thing. 

Positive Role Models

Dasher is brave, kind, helpful, and never forgets her family. Santa Claus is kind and thoughtful, offers Dasher a new home, and rescues her family. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dasher, by author-illustrator Matt Tavares, is a lushly illustrated, elaborate origin story of one member of the eight-reindeer team that, according to poem, song, and TV specials, pulls Santa Claus' sleigh. Dasher is trapped with her family in a traveling circus and menagerie until she escapes, runs into Santa and his one-horse sleigh, pitches in, and begins a new life in this magical tale. 

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What's the story?

As DASHER opens, we see that she, her family and other animals are part of J.P. Finnegan's Traveling Circus and Menagerie, where they feel trapped. Dasher's mama tells her that "Mr. Finnegan is not kind to animals who try to escape." But one night Dasher does, following the North Star, and in the forest runs into Santa Claus and his horse, Silverbell, who's tried from pulling the heavy sleigh, full of gifts for children. Dasher offers to help, so Santa harnesses her to the sleigh next to Silverbell, and they begin walking. Then, suddenly, they're flying! At the end of their ride, they land at the North Pole and Santa says, "Merry Christmas, and welcome home." Dasher loves it there but misses her family and wishes they could be with her. "That's your best wish yet," says Santa. They fly the sleigh to her family, hitch them up yo the sleigh, and fly back to the North Pole. On Christmas Eve, Dasher joins Santa's other seven reindeer, and Santa shouts the familiar list of names: "Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! In, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!"

Is it any good?

This beautifully illustrated picture books spins a good yarn about one of Santa's reindeer. It's a bold imagining that's warm and rhythmic in the telling, and stresses family love, bravery, helpfulness, and generosity. Dasher has the look of a classic even though the story is fresh as new-fallen snow.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the background story in Dasher. Why do you think the author decided to focus on how one of Santa's reindeer became part of his team, and Santa switched from using a regular horse to pull his sleigh to flying reindeer?

  • Why do you think tales of reindeer helping Santa Claus deliver presents are so popular -- first seen in an 1823 poem ("A Visit From St. Nicholas," commonly called "The Night Before Christmas"), then heard in a popular 1949 song ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"), and now in a new story in a book? 

  • What do you think of the art in Dasher? What does the author-illustrator do to make the scenes feel cold and snowy? How does he make scenes feel like magic? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love holiday stories

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