Bryan’s Christmas offering combines a poignant poem about a shepherd boy who builds his own stable with exuberant paintings in a masterful melding of rhythmic text and dazzling art.
His illustrations, in vibrant, glowing hues, fairly leap off the page with swirls of color in stained-glass tones lit by sunshine or starlight. Striped borders frame double-page spreads showing layered scenes of the carpentry shop, the stable and the surrounding countryside, a place of lush plants and huge trees. The boy who builds the stable serves as a shepherd, caring for the family’s animals, but he is also a beginning carpenter, apprenticed to his father. The boy builds the stable himself and takes care of the animals there each morning and evening. When he sees Mary and Joseph outside at night with no place to sleep, the boy asks if they need help and offers them his stable. He sweeps the floor, puts fresh hay in the manger, provides a blanket and water, and leaves his dog behind to watch over the sleeping couple. At dawn, the boy meets the new baby, proclaiming that this child will also be both a carpenter and a shepherd. Bryan’s Bethlehem, a “rich and verdant land,” seems an enchanted place where something mysterious and wonderful could happen, especially with a huge, twirling star illuminating the night sky.
Brilliant. (Picture book. 4-8)