Monday, November 23, 2009

Fear Not, Joseph!

Teaching both the Christmas story and the importance of trusting God without fear, Fear Not, Joseph! by Julie Stiegemeyer is a unique addition to your family's seasonal bookshelf.

Not only does the author tell the biblical story of Jesus' birth through the eyes of Joseph - something I've never seen in a children's book before - but she emphasizes how Joseph had to trust God, despite dubious circumstances.

First, Joseph's young fiancee tells him an angel visited her to say she'll soon give birth to the Messiah. "I looked at Mary, my stomach twisting and my thoughts whirling. I wanted to trust her, but I did not believe her words. An angel visited her? She was already with child? But were weren't even married yet!" Joseph thinks. That night, he can barely sleep, but when an angel appears to him in a dream, saying, "Fear not, Joseph!" he embraces the Lord's plan.

Months pass and Joseph and Mary are on their way to Bethlehem. Fearful Mary will soon give birth, Joseph begs innkeepers for a place to stay. When at last an innkeeper's son suggests they stay in the stable, Joseph worries what the damp place will do to his wife and her child. Then he remembers the angels words: "Fear not, Joseph!" Joseph tells his wife, "God will care for you, Mary...Our Savior is coming."

Mary gives birth with the help of the innkeeper's mother. At last, baby Jesus is born and Joseph thinks: "We had nothing - barely a shelter, no food, no wealth. Yet at that moment, in this tiny bundle, in this small, helpless Child, I found hope. I knew that the angel's words were true."

What I Like: I appreciate the re-telling of the familiar Christmas story from Joseph's point of view, and I like that the author found a way to not only tell the story of Christ's birth and what it meant, but also to encourage us to "fear not" and trust the Lord. Throughout, the art of Cheri Bladholm is realistic and lovely; these are illustrations to capture both your imagination and your child's.

What I Dislike: The book ends a little abruptly. Joseph tells how they stayed on in Bethlehem until an angel came to him in a dream and told him to take his family to Egypt..."Like Abraham, our ancestor, we trusted that God's hand was leading us and His love supporting us, His promises swaddled in the Child I carried in my arms." Some may also object to the addition of non-biblical details, like the help of a midwife.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: 4 - 8.

Publishing Info: Concordia, 2008; ISBN: 978-0758614988; hardback, $13.49

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Special Info: Visit the Stiegemeyer's website for information about author visits and more. Check out our reviews of other books by the author and illustrator.

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