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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
It’s Christmas Eve and a baby is about to be born in the main house. The sheep and their keepers (pastou, sheepdog), are snug in the barn, the sheepfold, as a cold winter storm rages outside. Nici calms the younger sheep dogs by telling his story. It’s not a happy story, though it started out happy in a sheepfold such as the one he’s in now, but it ended happy. Sadly, Nici’s name actually means ‘stupid creature’ in the language of Aquitaine where this sheepfold is located. Nici is anything but stupid. Unfortunately, he endured a lifetime with a cruel master, one who cursed Nici and always called him a bad dog, a stupid dog. Of which Nici was neither. The story ends. The baby is born. And a little boy, Musca, who slipped into the sheepfold to visit during the storytelling, confesses that he heard Nici’s story. For, as we all know, the animals do talk on Christmas Eve.
Jean Gill’s little story, Nici’s Christmas Tale: A Troubadours Short Story, is a parable that speaks to the hearts of animal lovers around the world. Like Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty and Margaret Marshall Saunders’ Beautiful Joe, Nici’s Christmas Tale fosters the age-old art of storytelling to touch the hearts of those who care, those who speak out against animal cruelty. A beautifully told narrative with powerful descriptions. One just wants to sit down with Nici as he shares his story in that cozy sheepfold while the cold winds rage outside on Christmas Eve.