"Christmas is pish-posh," grumbles Jonathan Toomey, the best wood carver in the valley. He's a Scroogelike recluse; but he's a gentle grouch, it turns out, and he hides a sad secret. He's transformed, not by Dickensian ghosts, but by an eager seven-year-old boy and his widowed mother who ask him to make them a Christmas creche. The story verges on the sentimental, but it's told with feeling and lyricism (he "traveled till his tears stopped" ). Lynch's sweeping illustrations, in shades of wood grain, are both realistic and gloriously romantic, focusing on faces and hands at work before the fire and in the lamplight. In a beautiful, elemental scene, the angry wood carver stands on the threshold of his home, disturbed by the gentle widow and her son who want his help and will transform his life.