I have never outgrown my love of children’s books. In my view, it is Christmas every day at Ingebretsen’s when a new shipment of books arrive. I can savor re-issues of the classics and delight in the new publications. When The Christmas Wish arrived in the store, I, like everyone else who saw the book, had to sit down immediately and say, “Oh, that is wonderful!” The Christmas Wish is a journey tale, with an intrepid little girl in a bunad who straps on her skis and sets off to fulfill her dream of being one of Santa’s helpers. Along the way, she is assisted by a variety of Arctic animals.
This is where the magic of the story truly shines through. What child hasn’t wanted to have special animal friends? The photographs (yes, photographs) pull you into a world where reindeer are cordial and conversational and polar bears are quite cuddly. The images are necessarily digitally edited – small children and massive polar bears should be nose-to-nose only in our imaginations – but so beautifully edited that it is easy to believe that our heroine, Anja, and the bear are really sharing a moment together in the Norwegian countryside.
What is just as lovely as the book is the story of how it came into being. This is a family project, written by Minneapolis stylist Lori Evert and photographed by her husband, Per Breiehagen. Anja is their daughter and willing model for book illustrations. I asked Lori how the book came about.
Lori says, “One day, when we were in Norway at Per’s mother’s house, Anja was trying on some clothes to inherit, amongst them the bunad and sweater that she wears in the book. The bunad has been in the family for years, and Per’s mother knit the sweater.
Per put them on Anja together, along with the red hat Per’s sister had made. Anja went out into the snow dressed like that to play with her cousins; she looked so adorable that Per followed along with his camera. Later he experimented with adding a toy reindeer into one of the pictures and the result was the family’s Christmas card that year. I thought the photo was magical, so I wrote a fairy tale inspired from that shot, and the family began to photograph the real animals and Anja’s adventures with them.
Making The Christmas Wish was an amazing and fun experience because it is a creative endeavor that we collaborated on as a family; in fact, we enjoyed it so much that we have two more books in the works!”
Lori has been an avid reader since childhood and has a deep appreciation of the books by Elsa Beskow. The whole family loves to be outside in any capacity (both Lori and Per list National Geographic on their impressive client lists) and Lori says, “I feel very, very fortunate to be able to combine all my favorite things; books, nature, art, animals and especially Anja, into something creative and constructive.”