A children’s story of Jesus’ birth, told simply, reverently, and often entertainingly by an owl in the Bethlehem stable.
In Brizendine’s (Grandma Thoughts, 2013) creative Nativity story, the titular bird starts off confused as Joseph and Mary unexpectedly intrude into his home, but he’s soon touched by their loving relationship and becomes excited at the prospect of witnessing the birth of their child. After the baby comes, the wise owl keeps tabs on the family, surprised at the arrival of worshiping shepherds and the gifts of the wise men. The last time the owl sees the family is when they’re on their way to Egypt, but later he hears miraculous things about the baby: specifically, how he’s actually both man and God and born to a virgin mother. The owl’s final words seem as if they come straight from Brizendine herself: “I continue to tell my story because I have seen God!” They’re followed by a few related New Testament excerpts and an invitation to readers to come to know Jesus personally in their hearts. One of the strengths of this presentation of the Christmas story is its comprehensiveness, as it covers all major events from the stable to the story of Herod’s infamous slaughter of male infants—a heavy topic for a children’s book but true to the tale. Like many Nativity stories, however, the text adds romanticized details, such as a glowing, smiling baby Jesus, and not all readers may be fond of this fact. The owl’s commentary also seems awkward at times, but overall, its unique perspective and juvenile tone is spot-on for this book’s target audience of Christian kids. The medium and mood of the illustrations constantly changes; after some owl photographs at the beginning, remaining illustrations seems to alternate between sedate and cartoonish, with colored-pencil drawings and what seems like clip art. Each of the images is appealing and relevant to the storyline, but the book would have benefited from greater illustrative predictability.
A fresh, if sometimes-sentimental, recounting of the first Christmas.