Newbery Medalist Rylant offers a succinct, graceful account of the birth of Jesus and some of his most famous words as an adult preaching to others.
The cover shows three shepherds and one sheep, and the story actually begins on the cover flap with an extension of the cover illustration and just three words, “A child is born.” The simple text is adapted from the books of Matthew and Luke from the King James Bible, retaining the traditional flavor and old-fashioned textual cadences. The angels visit the shepherds, and the shepherds visit Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the stable, but the Wise Men are not included in this interpretation. The story shifts to Jesus as a grown man, preaching the Sermon on the Mount “before a great multitude of people.” Four of the Beatitudes are recounted, concluding with a simple house decorated for Christmas and two sheep next to a snow-covered evergreen tree. Rylant’s understated illustrations in her refreshing, naïve style sometimes look like finger paintings and often portray just a suggestion of words from the text. The backgrounds of the double-page spreads are in bold, deep colors, with the figures intentionally small and their faces hidden.
This gentle interpretation of the birth of Jesus connected to some of his most important words has its own calm, quiet strength. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)