The retelling pulls from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth (Matt. 2, Luke 1&2).
What I Liked
Last year, I had the opportunity to review The Story of the Wisemen, also by Patricia Pingry. Both of these books in the author’s Christmas-themed series features a retelling of some element in the nativity, and this recent title bears a more general emphasis.
I’m impressed with Pingry’s ability to draw out the details of the biblical narrative, in her story for little ones. Things that I usually take for granted, like Joseph putting Mary onto a donkey, become the details in this story of Jesus’ birth.
At the same time, there are certain concepts (such as “census” and “virgin birth”), that do not make it into the story. I like that, because it makes for a streamlined narrative, rather than confusing the listener with unfamiliar concepts. Instead, the events are lined up tidily: an angel came to Mary, who had to go to Bethlehem with Joseph. There was no room for the couple, so they stayed in the stable. Angels also told the news to shepherds, and the wise men came to see Jesus, too. The author says they came to see Him “because they loved Him” (capitalization mine). What a beautiful description!
I also like that the narrative is bookended with contemporary illustrations, as the author introduces the story, and concludes with why we give gifts on Christmas. I think this offers a point of connection for the reader.
The illustrations are sweet and cozy, with a lovely palette that incorporates rich shades of beige, purple, blue and green in the ancient scenes, with brighter color used for the contemporary moments at the beginning and end of the story. What a neat visual cue for the reader!
I very much appreciate the diversity in the characters, ancient and modern. Mom and Dad have slightly differing skin tones, as do, I think, the children. I’m also really glad that Jesus and His family are not portrayed as white, because that is an inaccurate (but historically proliferated) trait applied to them.
The details in the illustrations bring so much to the story, as well. Buckingham does an excellent job of filling each page with imaginative accents, which are not mentioned in the text. For instance, on the first page, I notice the candy canes on the trees, the plaid of the boy’s pajamas, and the fact that the cat is tangled up in a ball of yarn.
Ancient scenes include elements befitting the time period and historical account of Jesus. We see woven baskets and clay pottery, hanging herbs and carpentry implements. These little details enrich the story and engage the listener’s imagination.
Simply told, The Story of Christmas is a short board book that retells the Nativity in a way that little listeners can understand. Detailed illustrations bring the story to life, while also offering greater context into the time period. This is a book I’m happy to recommend for families with young children.