One of the things we like to do as family during the holidays is drive around our community and look at all the Christmas lights and displays. Some people really put a lot of effort into their decorations, and it's really neat to see houses lit up from top to bottom. But, my very favorite displays are ones that include a nativity scene. Last week, our pastor's sermon spoke of the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. With all the hustle and bustle during Christmas, it's easy to lose focus. However, every time I see a creche, I am reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and the best gift ever, the birth of Jesus, our Savior and redeemer.
This week we are reading a couple picture books that portray nativity sets. Both books would make neat gift companions to a child's nativity set.
A Christmas Goodnight by Nola Buck, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright. Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins (September 2011); ISBN 9780061664915; 24 pages
Book Source: Copy from our personal library
On a snowy Christmas Eve, a little child's family wishes baby Jesus and all the visitors to the manger goodnight, one by one. "Goodnight to the baby in the hay. Goodnight to the doves, coo coo. Goodnight to the sleepy mother. Goodnight to Joseph, too." The simple story, told in rhyming verse, helps introduce young children (toddlers and preschoolers) to the Biblical Christmas story and encourages them to name all those who played a part in witnessing the glorious birth.
Sarah Jane Wright's adorably cute illustrations put the past and present into prospective, first showing images of the holy family and visitors at Bethlehem and then switching focus to a present day family who lovingly place baby Jesus in their Nativity set manger before getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve. The last image on the copyright page shows only a swaddled baby Jesus, a nice touch alluding to the central focus of Christmas. My kids especially like to point out the stuffed animal lamb the child in the book holds while sleeping and the little church in the final landscape illustrations. Due to the simplicity of the text, the book is best for very young children.
A Goodnight Christmas is Sarah Jane Wright's first picture book. If you are not familiar with the illustrator, I recommend that you read some of the posts on her well-written blog: http://sarahjanestudios.com/blog/. She also sells all sort of lovely items in her online studio shop. She recently posted a couple of free downloadable activity packs to go along with her book:
A Christmas Goodnight Activity set [pdf] and Nativity Puppet Theater [pdf].
Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman. Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster (October 2005); ISBN 9780689855115; 40 pages
Book Source: Copy from public library
A little mouse named Mortimer is unhappy with his dark, dismal home underneath the stairs. He sees a perfect little "house" set up near the Christmas tree. He makes himself at home and settles down to sleep on a bed of hay after pushing the statues out of the way. Unfortunately, day after day, when he is out and about, someone replaces the statues in the house. Eventually, on Christmas Eve, he learns more about the statues and Jesus, a baby "born to save the world." Mortimer makes room for Jesus, remarking, "There was no room for you in the inn. But I know where there is room." After praying, Mortimer discovers a suitable home for himself. Wilson's sweet story shows that everyone is important to God and focuses on the true story of Christmas, by spreading the word about the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Karma Wilson also paired together with Jane Chapman to create the popular "Bear" books, and the illustrations in Mortimer's Christmas Manger are similar in style, full of lovely details and warm scenes. Mortimer is such an adorable mouse; he couldn't possibly be any cuter! My kids especially like to remark on all the decorations pictured on the Christmas tree (some of which Mortimer knocks down while trying to reach the creche.) This is a longer, but well-told story that keeps a child's interest and helps teach about the birth of Jesus.
Karma Wilson - Website
Jane Chapman - Website
Looking for a book that portrays a live, outdoor nativity? Last year I featured Lauren Castillo's book, Christmas is Here on Brimful Curiosities. It's a beautifully illustrated version of the Biblical text, Luke 2:8-14. Click the link for my full review.
What other books featuring nativity sets do you recommend? We'd love to read more picture book stories like the ones above.
Other children's books including images of or mentioning nativity sets: (we have yet to read these titles)
The First Christmas Present by Marilyn Sommerer, illustrated by Johanna Van Der Sterre
Angela and the Baby Jesus: (Children's Edition) by Frank McCourt, illustrated by Raul Colon
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
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