Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Shepherd Girl of Bethlehem

It's surprisingly difficult to find a really good picture book covering Jesus' birth - which is probably why so many authors and publishers struggle to make their versions somehow different. In The Shepherd Girl of Bethlehem, author Carey Morning chooses to make the heroine of the story a young girl who helps tend her father's sheep. Like many girls in biblical times, she's a good shepherdess. But at night, when it's dark, her father sends her to bed and tends the sheep by himself.

But one night, as the girl lays in bed, she notices it's not dark at all. The light of a large star fills her room and she can't resist the urge to find her father and his flock. But when she gets to their usual pasture land, her father isn't there. Finally, she sees him and a number of other shepherds headed toward town; she follows them, still in her nightgown.

When she enters the stable they've run to, she smells incense and roses and sees a golden light. There are not only animals and shepherds in the stable, but richly dressed magi. They are gathered around a mother and a baby who are described as "shining" and "radiant."

Soon the father takes his daughter home. "The baby is brighter than the sun," the girl says. "And Papa, his light is in me now." "You're right," her father says, "and it's yours to keep."

"She was happy and tired and wanted to sleep. So he picked her up, and she closed her eyes and was filled with the light of her own sunrise."

What I Like: I appreciate the author's desire to give children who already know the biblical story of Jesus' birth a little twist - and one that focuses on the Light of the World.

What I Dislike: This book falls short on several counts. We don't get to the real purpose of the story until about halfway through. The illustrations by Alan Marks sometimes seem to contradict the text; for example, when the text says the girl sees her father and other shepherds going toward town, we see a huge angel in the sky that somehow the child doesn't see - even though the shepherds are walking directly under the angel, going the opposite way from town. The author and illustrator incorrectly put the magi in the stable, instead of in Jesus' home when he's a toddler. (A common error, granted.) There is a prominent angel in the stable beside Jesus. And finally, I'm not sure how I feel about the extra-biblical display of Jesus and Mary radiating light. I understand the author needs to discuss Jesus' light for her story to make sense, but the text and illustrations show him absolutely glowing and shedding light. This seems unnecessary to me, especially since it's not in the Bible.

Overall Rating: Ho-hum.

Age Appeal: I'd say 4 to 7.

Publishing Info: Lion; 2012; ISBN: 9978-0745963686; hardback, 32 pgs., $14.99.

Buy Now at Amazon for $11.69 - or buy the Kindle version for $7.19
OR buy at for $11.49


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