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CHRISTMAS IN THE BARN by Margaret Wise Brown Kirkus Star


by Margaret Wise Brown ; illustrated by Anna Dewdney

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-06-237986-3
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Brown’s Nativity story, first published in 1952, is updated with new art from the illustrator of the popular Llama Llama series.

The poetic, simple text follows Joseph and Mary as they are shown into the barn, where the animals wait. After the baby is born, the shepherds and wise men arrive, and an overhead perspective shows the whole cast of characters surrounding the newborn, “all safe and warm.” Dewdney’s striking, mixed-media paintings have a loose, post-impressionistic flavor, with some areas showing her brush strokes or the texture of the canvas surface. She employs a variety of perspectives and sometimes shows characters as dark, incomplete silhouettes. The faces of the animal characters have the most personality, while the faces of the humans are less distinct and sometimes even blurry. Two of the wise men have dark skin; the other people have light skin. Brown’s short, rhyming text is accessible and satisfying, with clever inclusions of well-known phrases from traditional Christmas carols, and her characteristic mastery of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition is on full display. Not all of her word pairs are exact rhymes, but they work nonetheless. One page includes the rhyming word pair grass/ass, which may require some explanation, as well as the unfamiliar word “kine,” an archaic plural for cows.

Despite these minor quibbles, a new edition of any of Brown’s work is a gift worth celebrating.

(Picture book/religion. 2-6)