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THE STABLE RAT  by Julia Cunningham


and Other Christmas Poems

by Julia Cunningham, illustrated by Anita Lobel

Age Range: 8 - 10

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-688-17799-9
Publisher: Greenwillow

The author of Dorp Dead (1965) and other distinctive short novels in the ’60s and ’70s flies into radar range again with nine poems, all but the last sharing an “animals at the manger” theme. Their language is formal, their tone reverent and joyful: “Crows On A Certain Evening” break into “a choir of caws,” while a lowly rat, “a fill of skin so small among their legs,” is spurned by the other livestock but transformed at a touch from the newborn baby. A puzzled sheep goes along with the flock, hoping for answers; wild animals, Wise Men, and even the wind join in praise. In the matching art, Lobel (The Black Bull of Norroway, p. 410, etc.) is at her most radiant and spiritual, depicting gently smiling creatures, people, and an occasional angel clustering around the manger or frolicking in flower-strewn landscapes. In her final scene, paired to a mystical rhyme (“Be my flower, / Be my star. / Lend me a breath / Of what you are . . . ”), a comet and a great rose hover over a child dancing among flowers. Lyrical, deeply felt work from author and artist both. (Picture book/poetry. 8-10)