Synopses & Reviews
Two modern masters illuminate the Nativity story, creating a sumptuous gift book for families to cherish.
Mary, great with child. The lively donkey. The dignified wise men. The glorious angels. All the beloved figures of the nativity story are given new life by acclaimed poet and novelist Kevin Crossley-Holland, who links their tales into a chain of voices revealing the miracle and meaning of Christmas. Peter Malone's illustrations glow with the same majestic grace. This is a book for art lovers to admire, poets to praise, and families to read together and treasure.
"Though young readers won't come away with an answer to the titular question, they will surely understand from Malone's paintings that something beautiful and important happened in the tiny biblical town. Key players in the first Christmas take turns narrating a piece of the story. Mary ('My baby will be born tonight. Where can I lie down?'), the brightest star ('Follow me'), King Herod and Jesus himself ('I am the child and king') all share their perspective. Crossley-Holland's (The Seeing Stone) poetic style with its reverent, soothing quality smooths over some of the potentially confusing points in the story. Malone's gorgeous paintings, featuring a palette of opulent hues, intricate designs and sophisticated compositions, truly shine. Ages 4-8." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This poetic retelling of the Christmas story adds drama and immediacy through the use of alternating first-person narratives. Each page focuses on one member of the cast of characters, including people, animals, angels, and the shining star. Within just a few lines of text, each character's distinctive voice provides a personal introduction and some element of the story that skillfully advances the plot in an unbroken dramatic arc toward a compelling concluding page that could stand alone as a poem of faith. Opulent paintings in a spectrum of jewel tones advance the dramatic quality, often through compositions that seem to capture individual characters or scenes in a play. Thoughtful design elements include a variety of perspectives and illustration size and striking midnight-blue endpapers spangled with stars and one floating feather. Though it's a difficult task to add anything new to the multitude of Nativity stories, Crossley-Holland and Malone have succeeded. (Picture book. 4-8)
Horn Book Magazine
STARRED November 1, 2004
(Primary) One by one, participants in the Nativity story address the reader: "I am Mary. Tight as a drum. Round as the lady moon calling out to me. We're so far from home, and my baby will be born tonight. Where can I lie down? Joseph has gone up to ask the innkeeper." Each monologue segues neatly into the next, subtly introducing the next speaker; all display a keenly poetic sensibility, yet each is individual, and together they create a retelling of the Christmas story that is both down-to-earth and filled with majesty. The parade of travelers is depicted with stately pageantry in the medieval-like paintings, brilliant with color and feeling. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.
October 1, 2004
Gr. 1-3. Author of the historical-fantasy trilogy that began with The Seeing Stone (2001), Crossley-Holland offers here a presentation of the Christmas story. Each page or double-page spread introduces a new voice: I am Mary. Tight as a drum. Or I am the brightest star. Night-sky's many-colored flower, opening over Bethlehem, and We are angels. We are your secret voices. The text varies from colloquial to poetic, but the effect is that of a pageant in which characters one after another step up to introduce themselves and tell their part, rather than a play in which the drama is played out. Malone's large, tableau illustrations hint of some greater meaning than what is seen on the surface of events. Elements of Renaissance art are evident, but the style is unique. Most of the compositions are formal and even static until, near the end, a painting depicts a shining, wheeling swirl of colors as angels wing their way across the starlit sky in a circle of flight. A mysterious, sophisticated interpretation of the Christmas story. --Carolyn Phelan Copyright 2004 Booklist
School Library Journal
STARRED October 1, 2004
K-Gr 2-"I am Mary. Tight as a drum. Round as the lady moon calling out to me. We're so far from home, and my baby will be born tonight." So begins this telling of the Nativity story, in which one character after another contributes a small nugget, each one leading seamlessly to the next. Readers hear from the innkeeper, the Wise Men, King Herod, and even a small lamb; only Joseph never gets to speak his piece, although he is certainly present, smiling enigmatically. The language is both colloquial and lyrical, with the shepherds describing "the tent of the sky swaying, the earth's bones shaking" as they head toward Bethlehem. Malone's illustrations are reminiscent of early Renaissance and medieval Eastern art in their wealth of detail and color. From the ornate patterns in the Wise Men's robes to the sparse foliage and rocks spread over the arid land, the paintings evoke both sumptuous glory and a serene stillness.-E. M
All the beloved figures of the nativity story are given new life by the acclaimed poet and novelist, who links their tales into a chain of voices revealing the miracle and meaning of Christmas. Full color.
About the Author
Kevin Crossley-Holland was born in 1941 in Mursley, North Buckinghamshire, and grew up in Whiteleaf, a village in the Chiltern Hills of western England. He attended Oxford University, where, after failing his first exams, he developed his passion for Anglo-Saxon literature. After graduating, he was the Gregory Fellow in Poetry at the University of Leeds, and from 1972-1977, he lectured in Anglo-Saxon for the Tufts University of London program. He worked as a childrens book editor while beginning to write his own poems and reinterpretations of medieval legends. He has also taught for extended periods in America. He now lives in Norfolk, England.
Kevin Crossley-Holland has published six volumes of adult poetry and several libretti for opera. In the world of childrens books, he is best known for his numerous retellings and anthologies, and in particular his version of Beowolf. Storm, his novella, won the Carnegie Medal in 1985.
The Seeing Stone, published by Scholastic, is his only other work of original fiction. T.H White is the inevitable comparison for Kevin Crossley-Hollands new novel, American readers will also be reminded of Karen Cushman, for the earthy, rich portrayal of life in a medieval manor. Its sequel, At the Crossing-Places, was published in the United States in fall 2002. The third title in this trilogy is King of the Middle March, which will be published in 2003.
Peter Malone is the illustrator of HOW MANY MILES TO BETHLEHEM by Kevin Crossley-Holland and many other gorgeous books for children. This is his first opportunity to let his prodigious sense of humor shine through. He lives in Bath, England.