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How did the three wise men become wise? The Christmas story, as told from the perspective of Melchior, one of the three Magi of the New Testament, is the subject of a new children’s book, A Star to Follow.

Forest Park cartoonist Michael Garman drew the illustrations in the book, which was written by Hinsdale Central High School European History teacher Christopher Freiler and published by Little Creek Press.

This is Garman’s first children’s book although he has another scheduled for release next year.

The story of Melchior is one of “redemption against all odds,” according to Garman. As a young prince, Melchior goes to war on his father’s astrologist-based orders. When the prince returns home, his family and city have been destroyed, Garman said.

“It’s an anti-war story that ends with the Nativity,” said Garman, noting that the story is a flashback to the young prince who loses his family, then grows old, wearily following his duties as head of state.

“The story follows the life of someone who was taking orders and didn’t follow his conscience,” said Garman. “Near the end of his life, a star reappears and he says, ‘My life was already ruined by stars.'”

Melchior travels to Bethlehem with Caspar and enemy-turned-friend Balthazar, and the book ends when the trio arrives at the birthplace of Jesus.

“It’s a parable about following your muse, or your star,” Garman said.

Author Freiler and Garman have been “friends since college days,” said Garman, who has been a freelance political cartoonist for 15 years, publishing in the Southtown Star, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Now website and the DuPage Democrat, he said. He and his wife Elizabeth have lived in Forest Park since 2002.

Garman’s drawing style is influenced by Washington Post editorial cartoonist Herb Blocke, New York cartoonist Jeff Danziger and Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, he said.

“My wife and I are also big fans of [Chicago cartoonist] Lynda J. Barry,” he said.

The book is available at the Book Table and Magic Tree Bookstore, both in Oak Park Garman said. It can also be purchased at www.littlecreekpress.com.

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