Day 19 of our Christmas picture book countdown. We are so close to Christmas! Today I bring a book from the 80s, but it is new to me. I wanted this book so badly as a kid, but never got it. I don’t know if there were any other Barney Wigglesworth fans out there. That series is still one of my favorites from my childhood. We had mostly Christian themed books in our home and, as I’ve bemoaned before, they don’t tend to be very good quality. Barney Wigglesworth is one of the series that breaks that stereotype. There are four total in the series. I had three growing up and my children adore them now. This Christmas I determined to see if I could find an inexpensive copy of that elusive fourth which just so happens to be the Christmas one. So here it is! Barney Wigglesworth and the Smallest Christmas Pageant by Elspeth Campbell Murphy, illustrated by Yakovetic, 1988.
Barney Wigglesworth is a church mouse. His family lives around the balcony of the church. His best friends are Gwendolyn Scoot who lives in the craft room, Tillie Nibbles who lives near the kitchen, and Sam Scurry who lives near the choir room. They are lovely mice and dear friends with typical childhood situations.
In this Christmas Pageant book, Barney is collecting decorations to adorn the tree in the sanctuary. He first stops to pick up Gwendolyn’s decorations. She is in charge of the Christmas pageant and rehearsals are not going super well. Next, Barney stops by Tillie’s as well as Sam’s. Barney is happiest decorating the Christmas tree.
But soon Barney encounters a crying Gwendolyn. All the actors are sick and she is terribly devastated. Barney, Tillie and Sam struggle to understand how she feels until they stop and think how they would feel if their jobs didn’t go well.
As with all Barney Wigglesworth books, there is an intended moral to the story and a Bible verse included in the beginning. I love these books because even with both of those things, and the letter at the beginning discussing the point – the story itself is not overly didactic. Wigglesworth and friends are incredibly charming. The story is fun and feels realistic and always mildly humorous. As an adult it is easy to read the story and know exactly what I’m supposed to get out of it, but it isn’t annoying to read. It’s like telling a good cautionary tale and watching my kids figure out why it worked and what it means for them.
I know I am nostalgically partial to the other Wigglesworth books, but I really do think they are delightful in and of themselves. The story is well-written, quick, simple, and yet fun to read. And the illustrations are adorable. My girls love to talk about each mouse and study what makes them them and how they look like their families and all mouses, but different from each other. I love the background details of the church. It’s so fun to picture the world that Yakovetic has created.
I hope I did some justice to this beloved series. I think you’ll love Barney and the gang. And you might learn a thing or two in the process!