Books Your Kid Should Read

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." - Jorge Luis Borges

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The Nativity

14 December 2008

The Nativity
illus. Julie Vivas

In religious terms, I tend to refer to myself as a militant agnostic: I don't know and you don't either. But the nativity is a pretty good story, whatever your beliefs, and this picture book version absolutely captivated me from the first minute I saw it as a lowly bookstore clerk back in the early 90s. The text is taken from the King James version of the book of Luke, familiar to anyone who's watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special year after year. But what makes the book special are the amazing illustrations, which depict Mary, Jesus, Joseph, the angels, and the whole crew not as stiff, gilded medieval royalty, but as quintessentially everyday folk. The drawings are rendered in playful watercolors, showing angels with raggedy wings and unlaced muddy workboots sharing a cup of coffee with a tired looking Mary. The infant Jesus is so stinking cute you want to pick him up and squeeze him, which - for me, at least - is a novel and enjoyable response to depictions of the birth of Christ. The overall effect of the book is to make the nativity supremely joyful, earthy, and ... plausible. Wonderful for reading aloud this time of year.

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