“The tale is unfolded with such mastery, humor, and emotional force that we are entirely within its power.” —The New York Times Book Review
Features an audio read-along performed by James Earl Jones! Jonathan Toomey is the best woodcarver in the valley, but he is always alone and never smiles. No one knows about the mementos of his lost wife and child that he keeps in an unopened drawer. But one early winter’s day, a widow and her young son approach him with a gentle request that leads to a joyful miracle. The moving, lyrical tale, gloriously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has been widely hailed as a true Christmas classic.
About the Author
Susan Wojciechowski, a former children’s librarian, is the author of numerous books for children, including a series of books about Beany, a lovable worrywart. She lives in Rochester, NY.
P.J. Lynch, one of today’s most revered illustrators, has won many awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal twice—for The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and When Jessie Came Across the Sea. He is also the illustrator of A Christmas Carol and The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland's Good Fortune. He lives in Dublin.
Susan Wojciechowski was a children’s librarian for many years. “Every December,” she says, “I read the same two or three classic Christmas stories aloud to the children. I tried to find another one I wanted to read and couldn’t. So I wrote The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. I’ve never written anything that way before. It just came through me in a flood of inspiration and was finished in less than an hour.” The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey proved an enormous success, selling out its first printing long before Christmas Day. In addition, it won numerous honors, including the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit” and Britain’s prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal, and was a finalist for a National Book Award.
Following the success of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Susan Wojciechowski wrote the acclaimed middle-grade novel Beany (Not Beanhead). This time, inspiration came when she was in bed with a cold. “Beany just stayed there, and by the time I was well, the stories were written,” she says. Beany has since had more adventures in Beany and the Magic Crystal and Beany and the Dreaded Wedding, both of which were honored with a Parents’ Choice Gold Award, followed by Beany Goes To Camp and Beany and the Meany.
Along with the time she spends writing, Susan Wojciechowski makes many visits to schools, where she shows slides and talks about her books and her own life. Among the information she shares with children is the fact that, like many of them, she had no interest in writing when she was growing up. “In regard to writing for children, I like to create realistic kid role models,” she says, “like Beany, who is not perfect, but tries hard.” A native of Rochester, New York, Susan Wojciechowski now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband.
P.J. Lynch began to draw when he was very young. “My mama says that while everyone else was off playing football, I was always drawing,” he says. “I got a lot of encouragement to continue with it. I’m not sure which came first—the encouragement or my showing any talent. But because I was encouraged, I kept at it, practiced, and improved.”
P.J. Lynch does more now than merely practice. Well known in publishing for the research he devotes to his exquisite and detailed illustrations, he has won the Kate Greenaway Medal for outstanding illustration in children’s books twice and is a three-time recipient of the Christopher Medal, which is awarded to works that “affirm the highest dignity of the human spirit.”
Among his Christopher Medal–winning books is Susan Wojciechowski’s The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a tale of a woodcarver whose grieving heart is healed by a gentle request. P.J. Lynch recalls first hearing the story read in an editorial meeting, where there were more than a few damp eyes in the group. At that time he had illustrated only stories of fantasy, “magic, fairies, that sort of thing.” He was not sure just how he would create what this tale needed, but he knew he wanted to do it. And so, to immerse himself in the story’s setting, he flew from his home in Ireland to the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, where he studied early American furniture, buildings, and artifacts.
Similarly, before working on Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth, P.J. Lynch traveled to a tiny island in Minnesota to walk the same woods that author Doug Wood used to walk with his grandfather. Illustrating Amy Hest’s When Jessie Came Across the Sea required little research, however, as the story is one the Belfast-born artist felt he could immediately relate to. “Immigration is an experience with which the Irish are very familiar,” he explains. “Although it is a very personal story of one girl’s journey, it is also a story on an epic scale.”
Other works P.J. Lynch has illustrated for Candlewick Press include A Christmas Carol, The Gift of the Magi, Lincoln and His Boys, Mysterious Traveler, and No One But You.
“I hope my work never settles into a recognizable ‘style,’” says P.J. Lynch, who now lives in Dublin, Ireland, with his family. “So long as I am learning, my work will always be changing.”