The First Christmas Stocking

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The First Christmas Stocking Book Poster Image
Sentimental but stirring Christmas story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Claire, though she has so little, sacrifices her own well-being for another.

Violence & Scariness

A homeless orphan has no warm clothes in winter.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Claire's mother dies when she is quite young, and she is left at home, alone and cold, much of the time while her father works. Harsh realities of poverty are evident, especially when a homeless orphan appears with no warm clothes.

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Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Kind of boring.

What's the story?

Claire is a poor child, the only daughter of a miner and a knitter. Before her mother dies, she teaches Claire to knit as well. Claire soon becomes locally famous for knitting beautiful stockings, and people come from all over to buy them. Just before Christmas one year, an imperious, rich lady orders six stockings, and Claire knits the best ones she has ever made. But on her way to deliver them she meets a poor, homeless orphan, and gives him two for his bare feet, two for his hands, and one for his head. The last one she hangs on the mantelpiece, her hopes for a warm, happy Christmas gone with the money she failed to earn. But miracles do happen.

Is it any good?

Okay, let's be honest -- at any other time of year this kind of thing would be disdained. But one of the many magical things about the holiday season is its ability to transmute predictable, mawkish dross into pure, poignant gold. By the light of that transformation one can appreciate what might otherwise have been missed: the delicately lyrical writing, the dry sweetness of the story, the timeless nature of the sentiment.

But what would never have been missed are Bagram Ibatoulline's gorgeous, glowing paintings. When the text says that "surely these were the best stockings she had ever made," the illustration makes you believe it. Lovely.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Christmas stocking, and its uses and origins. What does Claire's mother mean when she says, "Dream your dreams, and knit them into the wool." Young readers may also be interested in learning how to knit.

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