Today’s offering from Book Guild is the perfect tale for parents (or grandparents) and their wide-eyed offspring to cuddle up with on the couch, be it before a wintery, roaring fire or in the still, warm air currents of the southern hemisphere, under the artificial but oddly comforting glow of indoor Christmas lighting, to share as part of a pre-Christmas calming ritual. The Gift by Susan Cowell is an illustrated story for all ages, but best suited for kids aged 6 and up.
Chania is the daughter of innkeepers in Bethlehem. When Caesar orders a census, the town is filled almost to capacity and Chania must fight the crowds on her way too and from the market to get supplies for her parents’ hungry guests. Tired and hungry, Chania returns to the inn only to have her mother saddle her with one more chore – deliver a blanket to the couple in childbirth in the stable. On arriving at the stable, Chania sees that the baby has already arrived and the family invite her in to meet the new addition, Yeshua. When other visitors arrive to meet the new baby, Chania promises herself that she will return tomorrow, to bask in the strange sense of calm and comfort that surround this new little family.
*you are looking for a Christmas tale that tries to faithfully recreate the comings and goings of the people in Bethlehem during the events of the Nativity
*you like your Christmas books to be accompanied by beautifully rendered watercolour style imagery
*in a time traditionally reserved for stress, bustle and consumerism, you can’t go past a book that exudes a strong sense of peace and the simple joy of being with those you love
Admittedly, this is more heartwarming fare than I usually go in for, but Cowell has done a wonderful job recreating the sights, smells and sounds of a bustling market in Bethlehem and the everyday business of the people who live there. Her descriptions really bring the atmsophere of the place to life – the heat, the crowds, the dust and the hurry to get things done before night falls on the town. For teachers in religious schools or those looking for a book that recreates a more authentic sense of what life might have been like at the time of Jesus’ birth, rather than some of the more traditional imagery that we’ve come to expect about Christmas, this book would be an astute choice.
The illustrations are detailed and the warm earth tones of the desert environment contrast nicely with the more colourful clothes of the people and the items on offer at the market. While there were one or two aspects that jarred a little with me – Jesus having blue eyes, for one – I suspect that littlies won’t notice or care about greater theological and/or anthropological arguments relating to the Jesus story and will simply appreciate the gentle tone and sense of warmth that draws the reader into the joy and excitement of a baby’s birth.
I’d recommend this as a special yearly read for those who want an authentic imagining of the nativity story.
I’m also submitting this book as my entry in categoy six of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014 – a book with something precious in the title. And with that – I’ve finished the challenge!! *does little happy dance* If you’d like to find out more about the challenge, read about participants’ challenge books and hey, join in yourself (there’s still time!), just click on this attractive button:
Until next time,