The wonder of Christmas never ceases. Each year the holiday comes and its story seems fresh and new. The ways of telling about the very first Christmas are as many and as varied as the stars in the sky. And so it was for Langston Hughes, who recounted those long-ago events in six different ways -- in live poems he wrote and in one he translated from the Spanish.Read more...
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The wonder of Christmas never ceases. Each year the holiday comes and its story seems fresh and new. The ways of telling about the very first Christmas are as many and as varied as the stars in the sky. And so it was for Langston Hughes, who recounted those long-ago events in six different ways -- in live poems he wrote and in one he translated from the Spanish.
In this memorable book, these six poems are simply and movingly illustrated by Ashley Bryan. That Christmas is for everyone -- young and old, black and white, rich and poor -- has never been more clearly shown. Though African American children -- and adults -- will find the book a special one for them, everyone who takes time to enjoy the book will come away with a new understanding of the holiday.
Ashley Bryan has long been known for his interest in and illustration of African American spirituals and poetry. Here he puts his gifts of illustration to work in a way that seems to reflect his dedication to both.
Religious Christmas Tales
I have long been an Ashley Bryan fan, so I highly recommend his Carol of the Brown King (all ages), with a text of five poems by Langston Hughes and another that Hughes translated from Spanish. Here Bryan continues his tradition of exploring African-American spirituals and poetry, with his trademark fireworks-like splashes of color in tempera and gouache paintings. An invigorating feast for the eyes!
Joseph's Story (Candy Cane Press, $16.95, ages 4-up, 082494092X) is a lushly illustrated (by George Hinke) and clearly told (by Patricia A. Pingry) narrative. A nativity story focusing on Joseph's thoughts and concerns, each spread contains a note explaining historical details and context, such as the fact that Joseph would not have been present at Jesus' birth (men were hustled away during childbirth). Lovely and informative.
Remember the Christmas classic The Littlest Angel? Recently the great niece of the author, Charles Tazewell, discovered one of his previously unknown manuscripts, now published for the first time. The Littlest Uninvited One (Ideals, $16.95, all ages, 1571021310) tells of a mischievous boy in heaven who longs for a dog. Michael finally gets his wish, but when the pup runs loose, all h - - breaks loose behind those pearly gates. The Littlest Uninvited One is a touching story for dog lovers and older children (at least 4 or 5; the language is sophisticated) alike.
Another book with an imaginative twist is Saint Francis Celebrates Christmas, retold by Mary Caswell Walsh, illustrated by Helen Caswell (Loyola Press, $15.95, ages 3-6, 0829411127). Based on Thomas of Celano's 13th-century biography, the simple text explains how St. Francis pulled together the world's first living nativity scene. The language is just right for preschoolers, although, as an adult, I would like to have seen a short historical note.
The most unusual nativity story I've seen of late is The Bear's Christmas (North-South, $15.95, ages 3-6, 1558589716), set in snow-covered lands. A hungry bear leaves his winter den in search of food, only to encounter shepherds, angels, and a mother and baby in a barn. The mother offers the bear a berry-covered branch, allowing the bear to return home for a long, deep sleep. This is a sweet, simple, and snowy fable.
Alice Cary is a reviewer in Groton, Massachusetts.