Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas is Here by Lauren Castillo - Book Review & Transfer Printing Craft

The Christmas season comes to customary end on January 6th with the celebration of Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Epiphany commemorates the manifestation of Jesus and the visit of the Magi (Wise Men). They traveled to Bethlehem to worship Jesus after viewing the star, a shining light that revealed Jesus' birth (Matthew 2:1-12).

In telling the Christmas story, many children's books show three wise men visiting the stable shortly after Jesus' birth. Interestingly enough, the Biblical passages are rather vague and never specifically state the actual number of wise men or their date of arrival. The verses only tell that the Magi brought three gifts to Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The stable also is not mentioned. They entered the "house" and saw the child with his mother.

Are there any children's books that show the Magi visiting Jesus at a house and not a stable? Or with a different number of wise men? Bookie Woogie recently reviewed The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats, a book that, according to them, shows more than three wise men. As for a house instead of a stable, I'm not sure, so I'll have to refer to my readers for further book suggestions.

Christmas Is Here by Lauren Castillo. Simon & Schuster (October 2010); ISBN 9781442408227; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from personal library

This Christmas my family discovered a newly published Christmas picture book by Lauren Castillo. In Christmas is Here, the wise men do not make an appearance at the stable. I want to make mention of it now because I think the book deserves a lot more attention that it received over the holidays. It is a book worth owning if you celebrate Christmas and makes a splendid read-aloud on Christmas Eve, especially if you already read the story from the Bible.

What makes Christmas is Here truly special is that Castillo merges past with present. She tells the Christmas story starting in the present time with a family that goes to see a live Nativity. As the little child in the story peers over the crib and looks down on baby Jesus the focus changes and the following pages powerfully depict the Biblical text taken directly from the King James Bible about the shepherds and angels and the birth of Jesus, the passages of Luke 2:8-14. In the end, as the text tells of the armies of heaven praising God, Castillo takes readers back to the present day with a gorgeous illustration showing the family and others gathered around the live Nativity as they join in the chorus of praise.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2: 8-14 KJV)

Christmas is Here ranks high on my list of favorite children's Christmas picture books, and I suspect that it will become a staple in home libraries in the years to come. Both young and old can find meaning in the story and the illustrations make the Biblical text very accessible to younger children without having an unrealistic, childish cuteness like so many other versions. I'm particularly impressed with the detail and magnitude surrounding the angel's visit to the shepherds. Castillo effectively shows their surprise and shock and joy. The manger scene glows with a magnificent warmth, and I especially love the quaint rural setting of the live Nativity. This inspiring book truly helps families focus on the real meaning of Christmas, and I highly recommend it.

❖❖❖❖❖❖❖❖ stArt Craft - Transfer Printing Technique ❖❖❖❖❖❖❖❖

Lauren Castillo creates her illustrations using acetone transfers, ink and watercolor. Up to this point I had never heard of acetone transfer. She explains the printmaking technique on her blog and it involves transferring a photocopied drawing onto another piece of paper by rubbing an acetone solvent on the back of the photocopy. The resulting image looks a bit like a woodblock print.

We decided to try our hand at paper-to-paper transfer printing. Our modified, more child friendly version uses watercolor markers and rubbing alcohol (or in my toddler son's version, water). Both kids really enjoyed making a mirrored photocopy of their drawings using this technique. (Adult supervision required if using rubbing alcohol. Alcohol should be used in a well-ventilated area.)

Sanford Mr. Sketch Scented Watercolor Markers
Sheet of regular copy (Printer) Paper
Sheet of watercolor paper
Rubbing alcohol
Cotton Q-tip swab
Plastic cup

1. Draw picture on copy paper using watercolor markers.

2. Flip drawing over and place on a piece of watercolor paper. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the backside of the drawing using a cotton swab.

3. Rub spoon over the backside of the paper to transfer the image onto the watercolor paper. (If you have a large drawing, it is best to apply alcohol and transfer a small area at a time because the alcohol dries quickly.)

4. Remove copy paper and view your mirrored duplicate image.

5. Color in image and add further detail.

My toddler son wanted to transfer his picture, too. We sprayed water on the backside and transferred it using the steps above. Water causes the image to bleed, resulting in a blurry transfer.

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A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell.

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Rebecca said...

This is so neat! And it turned out great! And i love that your son wanted to make one too :)

RedTedArt said...

Oh Wow! What a clever idea! I love it. I bet the kids loved this project. I vaguely remember doing transfers from magazines like this and it worked so well. Will have to investigate that technique again!

Thank you for linking up!!!


Callie said...

This sounds like a great book. I'm sorry we missed it this year, but I'll have to remember it for next season. We really enjoyed First Night this season.

Loved the activity you did with the kids as well!

stephanie said...

Tomie does it well. In "The Story of the Three Wise Kings" they come to "the place" and Mary is pictured with The child Jesus (not an infant) in a traditional pose, "Seat of Wisdom, Throne of Justice". There is no evidence of it being a stable (animals, shepherds, hay, manger...) in "Mary, The Mother of Jesus", the scripture is quoted, "Entering into the house" and Mary and the child are depicted in a house. Also, this is AFTER The Presentation. Tomie's "Book of Bible Stories" also separates "Jesus Is Born" from "The Visit of the Magi", but he does draw Mary and the infant in the stable.

Hope that helps!

stephanie said...

He also notes that in early art, 2-4 kings were shown, but 3 persisted due to the 3 gifts Matthew documented. Not sure about other books that show more/fewer than 3. Love your art stuff, btw.

Jenny said...

I was just commenting on someone else's blog that I want to get better about recognizing Epiphany, etc. and taking more notice of the accurate stories from history, like you've mentioned. I'd really like to get this book. I'd also really like to do this art project.

Storied Cities said...

This has been my favorite Biblical Story book this year. I also adore the illustrations in one of her other books, What Happens on Wednesdays (not least because it is set in Brooklyn!)

Pat Zietlow Miller said...

I will try this project with my daughter. And we have a Christmas board book that shows the wise men visiting Jesus in a house, not the stable. But I can't recall the title.

Pat Zietlow Miller

MaryAnne said...

We love this book! Your transfer art activity looks really neat, too!

Pamela said...

I love picture books and love to buy them for gifts (wouldn't admit to keeping any for myself) and for the grandkids to enjoy here.

It's neat to see the project progression. It delights me when mothers allow the younger ones to do a project the olders are doing.

momandkiddo said...

Love Lauren Castillo so much and this is a great book of hers. Thanks for linking up to The Children's Bookshelf. Pinning this, too.