A woman is gifted two corgi puppies by a helpful fairy in this children’s Christmas story, Corky Tails: Tales of a Tailless Dog Named Sagebrush: Holly Berry and Mistletoe.
The tale begins with “the Young Miss,” a ranch owner, thinking about the coming winter. With an injured knee, she worries about completing necessary tasks, including herding cattle and preparing for the birth of a foal.
Unbeknownst to her, she’s being observed by Sprig, a fairy whose people have worked together with corgi dogs for a long time. Soon the Shuns, tiny people who share the ranch with the Young Miss, celebrate the winter solstice, a new colt is born, and the Young Miss begins to heal. On Christmas day, two corgi puppies mysteriously appear— a gift from the fairies to help the Young Miss herd her cattle.
Although the book continues the Corky Tails series, it doesn’t require knowledge of previous stories. It’s a gentler tale than the others; the only tension is whether the protagonist can recover in time to complete her ranch tasks. The stakes could use more explaining, however; the story includes only vague threats, like “Who will take care of the animals?” and “Did she make a mistake buying this ranch?” Children won’t understand this threat as much as a landslide, flood, or fire, as in earlier Corky Tails stories.
The book offers a page or two of rather dense text for every full-page illustration. The writing is evocative and sets the mood perfectly, but some minor quirks distract: the use of “eves” instead of “eaves,” or the strange anthropomorphism of “wood that struggled to stay alive in the fireplace.” Also, the colt’s birth is revealed via illustration before it’s described on the next turned page.
That aside, the art is excellent, skillfully rendering the cozy darkness of winter, and young children will enjoy the richness of language as an adult reads to them, while older children will embrace the challenge of reading this tale of kindness and community themselves.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.