An Alpine village is the setting for a retelling of the story behind this Christmas carol.
As day breaks over the mountains, a homeless, orphan boy named Benjamin plays his drum outdoors. When travelers invite Benjamin to accompany them to honor a newborn king, he declines, having nothing to bring and ashamed of his shabby appearance. His friend Rachel convinces him to go along with her. She too is dressed in ragged clothes but tells him, “It does not matter….He will not look at our clothes, only into our hearts.” As the villagers gather by the stable, Benjamin plays his drum. Soft pastels create a beautiful atmosphere with light glittering from a star overhead and the golden glow of hearths below. Nonetheless, some of the charm of the carol is lost by the expansion of the lyrics into a full story with named characters. The song, with its soft, repetitive refrain and first-person perspective, leaves room for the imagination to fill in the emotional range of a magical experience. This feels a bit forced, especially with the addition of Rachel, who has her own gift as well as the volition that Benjamin lacks. Benjamin, Rachel, and the rest of the characters present white. Backmatter includes a brief biography of the Brothers Grimm although there’s no discernible attribution or connection to the song or story.
For families interested in revisiting a favorite Christmas theme. (Picture book. 4-7)