This arresting story of the first Christmas has a succinct, powerful, rhyming text and striking illustrations unlike any other version of the Nativity story, with art and words perfectly matched in an artistic tour de force.
At first glance, the story seems extremely short, even simplistic, and the illustrations washed out, lacking color or life. Look deeper. The gentle, soothing text is related in two voices, one describing mother-and-child pairs of animals, the second offering comforting words in the voice of the mother. The mother’s words are a beautiful rhyming poem, the thoughts of a caring parent that can also be interpreted as the voice of God speaking to his children. The mother-and-child pairs move slowly through the dark night, illustrated in minimalist shapes in a desert-night palette of tan, gray, gray-blue and black. The animal pairs gather around Mary and Joseph and their newborn in a tableau of simple shapes against a huge tree, with the merest hint of a shelter and manger. Look deeper again. Both the muted illustrations using simple shapes and a flattened perspective and the simplified text from two viewpoints indicate the influence of cubism, a different way of looking at a complex subject.
This unforgettable interpretation stands out as a bright, multifaceted star in the crowded constellation of Christmas Eve stories. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)