25 Days – Book 12: Our Very Own Christmas

It’s day 12 in our book journey and that means we are basically halfway there! Christmas is in 12 days. I am so not ready, but the celebration and preparations continue. Today’s books is very unique. I read it cold turkey with our toddler the other day and I was completely surprised by its format and illustrations and story. Even more surprising was that my daughter loved it. It seemed a little slow-paced and not a lot for visual cues, but I was wrong and she was enthralled. This is a beautiful, childish retelling of the Christmas story. A sister and brother play pretend and recreate the Nativity together. Enjoy sneaking into their playtime with Our Very Own Christmas by Annette Langen & Mariji Tolman, 2012.

The story begins with Kelly and her little brother Franklin pretending to be Mary and Joseph and setting out to Bethlehem. They dialogue together about the events, with Kelly frequently prompting and reminding Franklin of his parts. All through the story they travel, including the long journey, knocking on doors for a room, finding the stable, sleeping with the animals, and excitedly having the Christ child. Then they see the star outside and they would talk of hearing the angels sing of the birth. Visitors must be greeted bringing gifts to the baby and then, Kelly and Franklin travel home, content and ready to visit Bethlehem again the next day.

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This book is truly fascinating. The author and illustrator have worked together so tightly to create a story that must be enjoyed thoroughly with both the text and the illustrations. If you read only the text, you completely miss the marvelous depths of the story occurring in the illustrations. The text follows little Kelly and Franklin’s dialogue and actions mostly, while the illustrations show what is occurring in the whole backdrop. The illustrations also take a very unusual stance by remaining distant and overlooking the landscape. There is a beautiful, gentle movement of the images. They begin zoomed out and slowly zoom closer in until the baby is born (in this pretend version, a rabbit wrapped in a blanket). And then it moves back out again only to gradually zoom in once more when the three kings come to visit (and here we see it is the children’s adults coming to collect them home). The illustrations are soft and loose with great painterly textures. They show an expansive pastoral landscape around the children, with animals participating in surprising and also coincidental ways. These are illustrations that demand you stop and lean in to study them and connect them with their story.

The text as well is lovely and perfectly written. It feels like overhearing a playtime conversation and feeling humored by it. The intricacies of childish thought are impressively documented and it feels real. I noticed the book was originally published in Switzerland and that completely made sense with the landscape and different feel of the lifetsyle portrayed.

This is a beautiful, stunning look at a simple Nativity. There is so much heart and joy in this retelling. I almost missed it, but the dedication for the book by Annette Langen is so perfect and moving. It rightfully encapsulates the meaning of the book: “For all kids who only need a rag and an old shirt in order to set off to Beh-tel-helm.”

We’re halfway there friends. Keep in mind all that is really needed for this Advent. Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas Books 2014!

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