The Baker’s Dozen

A Saint Nicholas Tale

Retold by Aaron Shepard, pictures by Wendy Edelson

St Nicholas illustration
St Nicholas in Van Amsterdam’s dream of his childhood experience

The honest baker Van Amsterdam gives his customers exactly what they pay for—not more and not less. He is noted for the delicious Saint Nicholas gingerbread cookies he makes for the saint’s feast day in December. Van Amsterdam carefully counts out twelve cookies for each customer who orders a dozen—until the day when a strange old woman asks for a dozen cookies and insists that a dozen is thirteen. But the baker will not agree. “Your heart is small, and your fist is tight,” she tells the ungenerous Van Amsterdam as she leaves the cookies behind. “Fall again, mount again, learn how to count again!” From that moment everything goes wrong in Van Amsterdam’s shop —until Saint Nicholas himself sets things straight.

The Dutch colonial tale of Saint Nicholas and the baker’s dozen is one of America’s oldest and most beloved legends. With verve and charm Aaron Shepard retells the story, illustrated with Wendy Edelson’s enchanting, marvelously detailed pictures.
from the book jacket

Author Aaron Shepard provides a wealth of extras to enrich the story and the ways it may be presented:

Bakers Dozen poster
Poster #1
Bakers Dozen poster
Poster #2
Bakers Dozen poster
Poster #3

Though a number of sources were used for this retelling, the earliest and most authoritative was Myths and Legends of Our Own Land, by Charles M. Skinner, Lippincott, Philadelphia and London, 1896; reprinted by Singing Tree Press, Detroit, 1969. For inspiration and a crucial element, I am indebted to storyteller Sheila Dailey and her wonderful audio tape Stories of the Long Christmas, Rumplestiltskin Productions, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, 1986.
Aaron Shepard, author’s note

Additional background information about the folk tale

Bakers Dozen cover
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Bakers Dozen coloring book
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From Aaron’s Extras, Aaron Shepard’s Home Page. Used by permission.

The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, by Aaron Shepard, Atheneum, 1995, Skkyhook Press, 2016. 

The Baker’s Dozen Coloring Book, by Wendy Edelson and Aaron Shepard, Skyhook Press, 2018.

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