• Picture Book Snob

The story of Santa's first reindeer

Dasher by Matt Tavares

“But at night, while the others were sleeping, she would lie awake, gazing at the bright star on the horizon, wishing for crisp cold air and cool blankets of white snow.”


Dasher is the origins story of Santa’s first reindeer but that's all I’m going to say about the plot. The book will have a greater impact if you discover what happens yourself when reading it for the first time, and I don't want to spoil that for anyone!


If you miss how special Christmas was when you were younger, Dasher will restore some of its magic. With beautiful, old-fashioned illustrations, and a charming, moving story, this has a classic and timeless quality. It captures all the excitement and wonder of this time of year. You can almost hear the tinkling of tiny bells and feel soft reindeer fur against your skin as the tale unfolds.


Matt Tavares has illustrated twenty children's books and ten of those he wrote himself. Red and Lulu is another Christmas story which I hadn't seen before but looks amazing, especially how it depicts New York in winter. Matt has also illustrated his own version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. His artwork has won several awards and been exhibited in many galleries and museums. Matt has lots of free teaching resources available to download from his website and there's also this brilliant activity kit for Dasher.


Dasher was a New York Times bestseller when the hardback released last year and it's not hard to see why. It reminded me of The Polar Express and the effect it had on me when introduced to it as an adult. Similar to The Polar Express, Dasher has stunning images and is incredibly evocative and atmospheric. Although reading each story is as quietly comforting as watching snow fall, the final pages of both make a powerful impression. Be prepared for this book to dash off with your heart!


Dasher is a little long, so is probably best-suited to children from age four and upwards. You could still share the images with a younger child and summarise the story for them if their attention span is on the shorter side. Although we have only just discovered Dasher, I can see it becoming a tradition in our house and a book we revisit year after year.

Title: Dasher

Author & Illustrator: Matt Tavares

Publisher: Walker Books

Publication Date: September 2019

ISBN: 9781406393057