104 Pages Ages: 3+
Back Cover: The Christmas Story retells simply but memorably the whole story of the first Christmas—from the angel’s wonderful news for Mary to the quest of the wise men.
The Christmas Story is a four-chapter book for ages three and up, made both for reading to your child and for your child to carry around and flip through the pages on their own. The pages are thick and should stand up to little fingers that need to turn the pages without tearing. Book is sturdily spiral bound.
Chapter One, entitled Mary’s Visitor retells Gabriel giving Mary news of her holy pregnancy. The baby is to be named Jesus, he tells Mary. Mary is engaged to Joseph, who calls off the wedding until another angel visits him in a dream. They wed and then head off on foot and donkey to Bethlehem for the census.
Chapter Two, entitled Jesus is Born begins when Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem. Because of the census Bethlehem is crowded with many other men and their families. All of the rooms are booked. One innkeeper offers his stable.
“I suppose you could sleep in my animals’ stable,” the man said kindly. It won’t be very comfortable—but at least it’s warm and dry.”
There, in the stable, Mary’s baby was born. Joseph fashioned a crib out of one of the animals’ feed troughs, filling it with hay.
Chapter Three, entitled The Shepherds’ Visit retells the story of the shepherds, on the hills outside of Bethlehem tending their sheep, when an angel appeared, terrifying the shepherds. The angel tells them,
“Today a baby who will save the world was born in Bethlehem. You will find him dressed in baby clothes, and lying in a bed of hay.”
All the shepherds left their sheep untended and walked to Bethlehem. Once there, they crept in to see the baby.
Chapter Four, entitled The Wise Men’s Journey retells the three wise men following the brightest star they have ever seen into Bethlehem and the stable where Jesus lay asleep. Together, the three wise men decide that the huge star, new to the night sky, must be “very important.” One of the wise men knew exactly what the star meant
“(He always had his nose in old books.) It tells us a king is born. He must be very important if his birth is marked by such a fantastic star.”
The wise men follow the star into Jerusalem, but cannot find the baby Jesus. They stop at King Herod’s palace thinking this is where a baby born to be king would be born. King Herod had his advisors find out all they could. In a dusty old scroll they found the answer.
“This new king is born in Bethlehem,” said the oldest (adviser). “The scroll says he will be like a shepherd for his people,” added another.
King Herod told the wise men to go to Bethlehem and they will find the baby. The star they had been following stopped right above the gracious innkeeper’s stable. The wise men each bring Jesus precious and expensive gifts “fit for a king.”
This retelling of The Christmas Story is simplistic in detail and language. The author is cautious in her wording, making sure it is understandable by children age three and up. Even when King Herod enters the story, this is a happy story without conflict of any kind.
The king’s paranoia and anger are implied in a way that adults will remember, but young children will not catch on. Is this good or bad, sheltering children from a story they hear each year in church? (I am assuming that this book will be most often purchased by a Christian family who probably attend church—at least on Christmas.) Kids that listen to this story at church may want to know why King Herod is not upset. Yes, this is a story better left for Easter, so I will leave it there.
The illustrations are cute. Everyone has rosy cheeks and simple facial features. Mary looks pregnant in the fourth illustration, when the angel is telling her she will become pregnant. The first illustration of Mary and Joseph together must be a premonition. Joseph has his hand high up on Mary’s stomach, much like men might touch their pregnant wife’s stomach.
One thing I find to be glaring is the ending. I do not like how the story simply stops. The last line reads, “The wise men all gave Jesus rich gifts, fit for a king.” I would have liked this wrapped up a bit more. Maybe a little about Mary and Joseph returning home, being happy—anything would have been better than suddenly stopping. Do the wise men go home? Did they stick together in Bethlehem? And what about Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus? Where did they go after Joseph was counted for the census?
Mary’s figure stays roughly the same in every picture she is in. I just thought that a little odd, and an observant child might also think this way. The book is small, just right for little hands to carry around. Opening it up, turning its pages, and looking at the illustrations and going through the story in their mind. It is also spiral bound with strong rings hidden by the book’s spine.
Getting The Christmas Story back from your child, to store until next Christmas, may be difficult. I think young children will love having a Christmas book that belongs to them. This might be a good year for Santa to bring a small bookcase or shelf. Reading this repeatedly, as will be requested, will be easy to read “just once more?”
Author: Karen Williamson website Illustrator: Marie Allen website Publisher: Candle Books website Release Date: 2012 ISBN: 978-1-85989-941-4 Number of Pages: 104 Ages: 3+
Copyright ©2012 by Candle Books, used with permission.
Text: Copyright ©2012 by Marie Allen
Illustrations: Copyright ©2012 by Marie Allen, used with permission.