Mackall cleverly turns the idea of a silent Christmas Eve night upside down with this poetic view of the first Christmas, focusing on the sounds made by each participant in the Nativity story.
A soaring owl (“who, who, who”) leads readers into the story with a glorious bird’s-eye view of Mary and Joseph below, followed by pages with the sounds of Joseph’s sandals, his knock at the inn’s door and the sounds of the animals in the stable. The perfectly rhymed verses continue presenting more sounds of those hurrying to the manger, leading to the concluding cry of the newborn child. The unusual rhyme scheme (abbba) repeats the same first line for each stanza—“It was not such a silent night”—with the following line presenting the next sound distinguished through larger type in italics. The rhythm also contributes to the effect, with a staccato pattern suggestive of hurrying feet. Evocative paintings jointly created by Johanson and Fancher have a unifying element of royal blue skies speckled with stars, echoed in the blue pattern of Mary’s robe. The design of each spread incorporates motion in creative ways, with the text set in striking white type.
A fresh take on the Nativity story is a tall order, but this beautifully realized offering sounds like a winner, in every way. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)