On the tenth day of Christmas, my blogger shared with me…
a simple take on Luke chapter two!
The Christmas Story, by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrated by Wendy Edelson
(2005, Ideals Children’s Books, ISBN-13: 978-0-8249-5512-0, ISBN-10: 0-8249-5512-9)
My family has always been big on traditions, and one of our most important Christmas traditions is the reading or recital of Luke 2 on Christmas Eve night just before bed. (When my brother, sister, and I were little, we memorized it from the King James version. I think we can all still get most of it right even now!) My husband and I have continued the tradition, but this book—a gift from GirlChild’s Sunday school teacher last year—will make the tradition more accessible for GirlChild and BoyChild while they’re still very young. We love the way this book boils the story down to the basics so that the littlest ones have a better chance of actually following the story so they have a foundational knowledge to build upon as they grow and mature.
The text in this book is printed like a sidebar to the illustrations; this seems appropriate both in that the pictures are likely to be more important to a very young child and also that young readers might find this less intimidating because there are only a few words per line to read. Several significant words (some more significant than others) on each page are printed in red, enlarged font and draw attention from the reader. After a brief introduction explaining that we celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, the story tells the simplified events of the biblical account to get the main ideas across in as basic a way as possible. Because this is a retelling of just the first sixteen verses of Luke chapter two, there is no background information included and the story ends when the shepherds arrive and worship Jesus. A few details are improvised (like that Joseph made a soft place for Mary to sleep) and some are brought in from other parts of the story (like Jesus being named) but they don’t change the meaning of the story and make it flow better for younger listeners. The second to last page is basically a one-sentence summary of the story and a reminder that this is the Christmas story, and Luke 2:1-16 (King James version) is reprinted on the last spread.
The watercolor illustrations depict all the traditional images of the Christmas story. The characters and setting are painted with rough, folksy realism rather than the more cartoonish style one often finds in illustrated Bible stories. (Oddly, Mary does not appear to be “great” with anything at all at the beginning of the story, let alone a soon-to-be-born child, but it’s unlikely that a young reader will notice that.) Although the focus of most of the illustrations is on the characters themselves, as it should be, the simple backgrounds help transition the setting from one part of the story to the next. My favorite illustrations are the ones that accompany the introduction and conclusion: a modern little girl clutching a lamb figure while looking at the Nativity scene in front of her Christmas tree and the real-life version of that same stable under the star of Bethlehem with the city in the background beneath a starry sky.
GirlChild’s Reactions: GirlChild asked one question (“Why did she call him Jesus?”) and interrupted to talk a little bit about the part about there being no room for them in Bethlehem, but she didn’t seem satisfied with the story as it was and wanted me to read the Bible excerpt at the end of the book as well. Either I caught her at a bad time (it was right before nap and she was sick and cranky), or she may be too used to longer stories now to really get engaged with this short story format. We’ll still read this book on Christmas Eve right before bed, but maybe we’ll have her act it out with her nativity set as we read so she processes it more fully, or maybe it will be just perfect as it is for her level of concentration on an exciting night like Christmas Eve! It is definitely a keeper for BoyChild for the next couple of years as well.