In “Visiting the Visitors” Patrick Mader tells the story of a quiet Christmas Eve when three children and their grandparents pull a sled laden with corn, oats and a hay bale through the snowy woods.
Guided by a star, they bring their gifts to a stable where “visitors” await — figures of the Holy Family and the Three Kings along with real livestock. Offering warmth and sustenance, the kids thank the visitors for honoring the Christ Child born centuries earlier.
“Writing brought back memories of when our own children were really young, Mader said. “They loved visiting a large Nativity scene in our neighbors’ yard. After singing songs and praying, they would give the king statues a hug. We spent so much time visiting the kings that we mentioned it to the owners, which brought tears to the woman’s eyes.”
The children’s names in the book — Malik, Balta and Cassie — intentionally reflect the Magi in a modern way, Mader said, a hint of the Melchoir, Balthasar and Caspar names of Western Christian tradition.
Andrew Holmquist’s colorful illustrations enhance the grace and timelessness of this simple but powerful story.
Mader, an elementary school teacher and member of St. Dominic in Northfield, took note of how Holmquist’s warm yellow interiors and starry blue skies highlighted the story’s settings, moods and imagery. Gold and deep blue, he said, are historically known as “iconic” colors for religious icons.
“Andrew incorporated many symbolic touches, like faces — eyes, noses, mouths — and robes hidden in the tree branches, the way the star guides them, and the different nationalities and generations,” he said.
Holmquist, Mader said, had already done several illustrations before developing a new process using many media combined by computer. He then redid all the drawings using the new process.
This is Mader’s and Holmquist’s fourth book of intergenerational stories that celebrate rural lifestyles.
“At Christmas and Thanksgiving,” Mader said, “people express gratitude for the special gifts in their lives. ‘Visiting the Visitors’ honors the birth of Jesus with giving and thanksgiving. Helping those in need has always been important in my own family. Through the book I hope others find ways to do the same.”
“Visiting the Visitors” by Patrick “Packy” Mader, illustrated by Andrew Holmquist. Beaver’s Pond Press (Edina, 2013). 32 pp. $17.95.