The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

I had been reading one chapter a night of Jostein Gaarder's The Christmas Mystery (1992; translated from the Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan, 1996) aloud to my daughter this advent. Sadly, we only made it to Day 6. The premise of Gaarder's book is good (if structurally familiar to readers of The Solitaire Mystery or even Sophie's World): Joachim discovers a magic advent calendar (yes! a magic advent calendar is good) in an old bookstore. Behind each door is a picture--and a tightly folded piece of paper telling another story, about Elisabet's journey across Europe and back two thousand years, to Bethlehem at the time of the Nativity.

Eventually Joachim's and Elisabet's stories interwine, but we didn't make it that far--Elisabet's story was a lot less interesting (or more philosophical) than Joachim's. Maybe I'll try again on my own, since I can read a lot faster than I can read aloud, although I am probably less patient than my nine-year-old.

Note: We are reading the English edition, illustrated by Rosemary Wells. The illustrations are not as magical as I would like, and other reviewers agree, preferring Stella East's illustrations in the Norwegian edition pictured here (Aschehoug, 1995). Maybe that would help?