Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Little Lamb" Children's Song -- While Shepherds Watched by Jenni Fleetwood Book Review

Some songs stay with you your entire life, the words forever embedded in your heart. When I was in kindergarten I, along with two of my friends, sang a song called "Little Lamb" for our class Christmas program. My mom liked the song so much that she also had me sing it in church that same year. The rhyming verses in the "Little Lamb" song tell of the first Christmas. A little lamb sees the bright star, hears the angels' voices and goes to see the baby in the manger, Christ the Lord.

Little lamb, little lamb, lying on a hillside,
Little lamb, little lamb, What did you see?
I saw the light of a bright star, Shining down on me.

Little lamb, little lamb, lying on a hillside,
Little lamb, little lamb, What did you hear?
I heard the song of the angels, Singing loud and clear.

Little lamb, little lamb, lying on a hillside,
Little lamb, little lamb, Where did you go?
I went to see baby Jesus, Born on Christmas Day.

I'm not sure who wrote this song or where or when it first appeared in print. My mom did speak to my kindergarten teacher who said she remembered the song and that it was in a book that she left at school when she retired several years ago. I've found other versions of Little Lamb mentioned online, with alternate lyrics for the last verse: “I went to see the dear baby, Born so long ago.” If anyone has a copy of a book that includes this song, I would love to learn the title. For those that want to hear the melody, you can listen to a class perform the song in this YouTube video recording: Lily singing Little Lamb. (This is not my video, nor do I personally know any of the performers.)

This year my daughter carried on tradition and sang "Little Lamb" during our church Christmas program along with one of her Sunday School classmates. She easily memorized the song and sings it at random times at home. Hearing her sweet little voice singing about our Savior fills my heart with joy.

Every year my daughter makes paintings to give as gifts for Christmas. This year she chose to paint a little lamb on a hill. I'm sure the paintings will be cherished by all who receive them and will serve as a reminder of the year she sang the "Little Lamb" song.

What must it have been like to be one of the "lowly" shepherds who first heard of Jesus' birth as described in Luke's account of our Lord's birth? Imagine the shock, the awe, the amazement at the sight of the angel and the joy the shepherds experienced after hearing news of the newly born Saviour. Jenni Fleetwood, in her book While Shepherds Watched, gives us a fictional look at Jesus's birth through the eyes of a shepherd boy.

While Shepherds Watched by Jenni Fleetwood, illustrated by Peter Melnyczuk. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books (1992); ISBN 0688115985; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from public library

"It was just an ordinary stable, but the starlight was so bright that Matthias could see every detail. Ever afterward he could picture it clearly in his memory."

In this first Christmas story an eight-year-old shepherd boy named Matthias experiences a night of miracles on his own birthday. For the first time in his life, he watches on as a ewe gives birth to a lamb. Shortly thereafter an angel appears to him and the other shepherds and a bright star leads them to Bethlehem to see the Christ child.

Fleetwood's story is a tender one that also reminds me of "The Little Drummer Boy"-- the shepherd boy in While Shepherds Watched shares a special gift with Jesus. The author describes the shepherd boy's coat as a "sheepskin jerkin," a rather unusual term we hadn't heard before. The shepherd boy keeps the baby lamb warm by carrying it under his coat. Fleetwood incorporates Biblical text into the book, using portions from Luke 2:10-15 (KJV). The story is on the longer side and the book is probably best for ages 5 and up.

The illustrations in the book beautifully portray the miraculous starlit evening and the area of Bethlehem appears as one would expect with desert dwellings bordered by rocky fields. Melnyczuk adds interest and depth to his illustrations with a special scratch art technique that gives the drawings a crosshatched look. In one picture baby Jesus appears to be a little older than a newborn child, but overall the illustrations provide a nice insight into what it might have been like for those shepherds living in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

The book was first published in Great Britain by J.M. Dent and Sons. A revised 1999 edition by Broadman & Holman is also available.

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

This book sounds lovely! I love the little lamb paintings your daughter made!

Christy Killoran said...

That book sounds wonderful. The paintings are so sweet - I bet they are treasured.

Jen said...

Oh what a sweet song and such a great idea for a gift. Loved this post!