“Musher’s Night Before Christmas” by Tricia Brown, illustrated by Debra Dubac

You’re such a good helper.

When Dad’s busy in the kitchen, you’re right there to set the table. If Grandpa needs someone to weed the garden with him, you grab your jacket and head outside. When Mom says company’s coming, you help by picking up your toys. And if Grandma asks for a cookie taster, you always volunteer.

You’re the best helper in your family, but who helps Santa? As you’ll see in “Musher’s Night Before Christmas” by Tricia Brown, illustrated by Debra Dubac, you might be surprised at the answer.

It was Christmas Eve and everyone at the North Pole was caught up in the excitement. All the elves were there, clapping for the guy in the red suit and listening to reindeer facts and weather reports.

As the reindeer lined up and got ready to go, Mrs. Claus reminded Santa that it was cold up in Alaska, and snowing hard in Nome.

But Santa wasn’t worried. He patted each of his teammates, checked his pockets for last-minute things, looked the sleigh over, and when he was satisfied that everything was a-okay, he jumped aboard and the reindeer leaped into the sky.

At a faraway cabin way up north, a yard full of huskies were yapping at the snow. Fleece booties, meant to protect their paws, were hung by the fire and everyone – including the dogs’ owner, Tom – settled down to dream of winning big races.

Then, one by one, the huskies saw someone coming and they started howling. When Tom heard the noise, he jumped from his bed and ran outside. It was Santa and his reindeer, and they were exhausted!

While Tom danced barefooted in the snow, Santa explained that he was nearly done delivering presents, but there was one place he didn’t have the energy to reach: Nome, where it was snowing hard. The reindeer were out of power and Rudy’s nose was fading to pink, but Santa knew who could help him get the gifts to Nome. He’d been following the news, and he knew all about Tom and his crew.

Could Tom and his huskies save Christmas Morning?
Every year, it seems, someone comes out with another take on Clement Moore’s classic. Many of them have the barest relationship to the Yuletide, but this book is set practically in Santa’s back yard.

With just a hint of Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas,” author Tricia Brown tells the story of a string of unlikely heroes who thunder through the snow to give St. Nick a hand with his annual job. I especially enjoyed how Brown adds a touch of humanity to Santa’s superhuman abilities, making the Big Guy even more huggable.

What kids will love, though, are the illustrations by Alaskan Debra Dubac. Her bold colors are holiday-perfect, and the facial expressions she gives each character are deliciously funny.

If reading a holiday book has become a beloved tradition in your family, reach for this one. “Musher’s Night Before Christmas” is a story your 3-to-5-year-old can’t help but love.