Honor Ayres served as illustrator and filled the pages with soft, pastel watercolors. Readers should note that Jesus is pictured as a baby in the manger and again as a young boy worshiped by wise men. None of the characters wear halos. The final page offers a lovely pop-up illustration of the Nativity scene.
As an added novelty, the book includes an lift-the-flap advent calendar.
What I Like: I like the flow and tone of the book. It doesn't try to rhyme! The text is beautifully written without gimmicks or cutesy-kid language. It doesn't talk down to the readers. It's very sweet in nature, yet full of accurate information. This book includes some details frequently overlooked, like Mary's visit with her aunt Elizabeth who was also pregnant by God's intervention. The pop-up illustration at the end is great.
What I Dislike: My biggest problem with this book is the way the author handled Joseph. He is pictured throughout the book with Mary, but the text fails to explain why. His presence is only acknowledged once. On the page about the census and Mary's journey to Bethlehem it reads: "She went with Joseph, the village carpenter." That's it. The text continues to explain "Many other people were traveling the same road." This makes it sound like Joseph is just some random guy rather than a man chosen by God to help Mary raise Jesus.
My other dislikes are minor. I like the illustrations, but they are very light, almost washed out in some spots. (The cover illustration does not reflect the interior illustrations.) Bolder colors choices and greater contrast would add to the interest, especially for boys within the target age range. Also, the advent calendar seems a last-minute added novelty. It is provided on the first page without any introduction or instructions. There are no prompts explaining what it is or how to use it. The book is obviously not meant for families new to Christianity or unfamiliar with traditional advent practices.
Overall Rating: Very Good. (Even considering my complaints, I still recommend this book. The quality of writing makes up for the book's shortcomings.)
Age Appeal: 4-8
Publisher Info: Thomas Nelson, 2008; ISBN: 1400313015; Hardback; $12.99
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