Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers, by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Kate Kiesler (1996)
To start off this year’s twelve reviews of Christmas, why not pick up right where we left off…with Andrew Clements!
The story is told from the point of view of an angel who clearly remembers this one special night, the night that “the great truth came to the earth once and for all.” He looks back at other things angels have announced, remembering how they were pieces of the revelation, pointing toward this one amazing night. He speaks of the star, of Joseph and Mary, of the shepherds, and of the light shining in the darkness–Jesus. The illustrations are done in oil paint and are soft but realistic (the illustrator put effort into making sure the setting was archeologically accurate to the time period and location). The perspective of the illustrations changes between what the angels might have seen to the point of view of someone who was watching the whole story unfold. The angels seem to be depicted in the form of white birds, mostly out of focus or shadowed in darkness or shining so brightly that their shape is unclear. The one clear image is represented by a single white feather lying on the ground next to Jesus in the manger, a reminder that an angel was there.
As I read this book to my kids, I couldn’t help thinking about what a great performance piece it would be. For very young children, someone dressed as the traditional image of an angel (white robe, wings, you know) could read the story aloud and share the pictures as part of a Christmas story time or before a Christmas party. It would also be a beautiful monologue for a Christmas performance at church (given the right permissions were sought), and although it would be difficult to project the original artwork that would help to tell the story, there might be possibilities for actors to present tableaus to represent the different scenes. (Its focus on how the Christmas event is part of God’s revelation throughout history reminded me strongly of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by The Skit Guys. It’s available for purchase with licensing information and all that and could maybe be used as part of the same production as a performance of this book.)
BoyChild’s Reaction: BoyChild ran to get our Little People Mary and Jesus figures and compared them to the pictures in the book as I was reading. I like that he’s making the connection (and learning that the visual representations of the characters aren’t always going to be the same because no one knows exactly what they looked like), but I do wish he’d stop saying “Baby Moses” every time before he corrects himself (or I correct him) to “Baby Jesus”! He was more than happy to sit through a second reading of the book, and I bet he would ask for it again if we didn’t have to return it to the library because our renewals have all expired!
GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild loved the book, too. I think reading it aloud first is the best choice because of the first-person point of view and the performance aspect of it, but I’m sure she would have enjoyed it reading it independently as well. GirlChild, as always, was tuned in most to the emotions of the book and focused on the page about Mary. The text never specifically said that Mary was happy (and that illustration was the least enjoyable to me–I don’t think it quite conveys the spirit of the text because she looks a little…confused), but that is what GirlChild got out of the description of Mary anyway, and that was the intent. Considering both of their interaction with the text, I would go ahead and recommend this book for preschool to elementary as a read-aloud or performance piece. I’m so glad I found it!