One of the hardest things I can remember as a child is having to wait for Christmas (yes, I had a rather conventional suburban upbringing). In the 1950s, it was rare to see anything involving Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But once Thanksgiving had passed, it was time to pore over those big Christmas catalogs from Sears, Penney’s, and Montgomery Ward, with their pages full of the latest children’s toys. And then came the anticipation of what would be found under the Christmas tree.
But there’s far more to Christmas than the anticipation of new toys. For children and adults alike, Christmas is about the coming birth of the Messiah, and in that phrase, “coming birth,” is the summary of the two parts of that great season in the Christian calendar – advent and the arrival. Two new books for children focus on these vital aspects of the Christmas season.
Look: A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas, written by Laura Alary and illustrated by Ann Boyajian, deftly blends the story of the birth of Jesus with what happens in churches today – the celebration, the advent candles, and the trees and other decorations. Adults may understand the connections between what happens in church and the Advent of birth of Jesus, but it may not as obvious to young children (so what is the deal with the Advent candles?).
And there’s more. This isn’t only a book about the meaning of the Christmas story but also what that story should compel us to do, and how we live our lives because of that story.
In almost dream-like pastel colors, the illustrations are simple and moving. Whether it’s children looking at the stars in the night sky or a candlelight church service, the illustrations fit the text hand-in-glove to explain Advent and Christmas.
Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas is a wonderful way for both adults and children to understand what Christmas means.
That Baby in the Manger, by Anne Neuberger and illustrated by Chloe Pitkoff, is a children’s book that focuses on the birth of Jesus, but it does so in a very particular way. A first-grade child doesn’t recognize the doll used for the baby Jesus in the church’s manger scene because the doll has blond curls, and the child herself has dark hair. The story becomes one of how a man overhearing the conversation helps the little girl and the children with her to see that Jesus isn’t only about children with blond curls.
The illustrations, done in watercolor style, are lovely. These are pictures of Christmas in a neighborhood in the city, and they are beautifully done.
That Baby in the Manger is about Christmas for all of us, and it is a season for all of us, “for God so loved the world,” and not only children with blond curls.
Top photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.