Day 9 brings us a book of selected poems. This book is so incredibly lovely, I was quite surprised to realize I haven’t featured it before. It is a book about Christmas Eve. About a moment when, if all creatures were given human thought and speech, they might utter responses to welcome and comfort the baby Jesus in the manger. Allow yourself to wonder with Manger, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann, 2014.
My girls received this book as a gift a few Christmases ago, right before I started hearing about it and how beautiful it was. It is a sweet treasure of stunning illustrations. But even sweeter is the amazing thoughtfulness and unique approach to the familiar Nativity story it presents. While yesterday’s book brought a fresh look at the old English Carol of ‘The Friendly Beasts’ (and this book actually ends with the donkey’s refrain from that carol); this collection of poetry is surprising – with some of the responses as well as the selection of animals.
The first animal is the rooster, appropriate as it is usually the first animal of the day to make a sound, but here it talks of crowing to honor the newborn prince that changes the dawn forever. From there we meet sheep who whisper to the baby and a horse who is speechless. A few more familiar animals speak and then we meet surprises like a wren, spider, llama, and even fish! Each has a message to and about the baby that is delightful and thought-provoking. While a few of the poems take some license in the details around the Nativity, I marvel at the fresh approach to such a familiar story.
Though each poem is from a different author, there is an amazing cohesiveness to the book. The voices of the animals are each unique as their author, yet the baby is the center of their attention pulling everything back to that manger. It truly is a beautiful concept.
I have always been easily moved by poetry. And here I am even more stunned by the beautiful and clever, yet reverent, illustrations. Cann’s watercolors are adorable and yet striking; realistic, and yet artistic. Her use of watercolors is masterful. I laugh (quite appropriately) every time we get to the “Littlest Goat” page. The expression on the goat’s face is made all the more hysterical by the annoyed (and probably exhausted) donkey eyeing it. Ha!
I am truly delighted in this collection of poems that bring me to the manger in a different way. I hope you’ll check it out for yourself. Thanks for joining along this 25 days of pictures books to Christmas!