Friday, November 22, 2013

Peace on Earth: A Christmas Collection

My children and I love Mary Engelbreit's picture books - so when I saw that Engelbreit had a new Christmas book called Peace on Earth: A Christmas Collection, I couldn't wait to snuggle on the couch with my kids and dig in.

Any Mary Engelbreit book really begins with the illustrations. Colorful, cheerful, and full of childhood delight, the illustrations in Peace on Earth don't disappoint. You'll find lots of rosy-cheeked children, plus beautiful angels, cute critters, and sublime biblical characters.

The text in this book is all borrowed - a collection of Christmas carols, poems, prose, and excerpts from the Bible. The book begins with a brief re-telling of Jesus' birth, followed by a Christina Rossetti poem ("Love came down at Christmas,/Love, all lovely, love divine"), an excerpt from the gospel of Luke about the angels announcing Jesus' birth to the shepherds, another poem, and so on.

I was unfamiliar with most of the content, with the exception of the Bible stories and the carols. One gem was "Friendly Beasts," a poem without attribution, about the animals in the stable where Jesus was born. I found it one of the most little-kid-friendly inclusions:
"'I' said the donkey,
shaggy and brown,
'I carried His mother
up hill and down.
I carried her safely
to Bethlehem town.'
'I,' said the donkey,
shaggy and brown."
Ethel Van Deusen Humiston's poem "A Child's Christmas Eve Dream" is sweet and fits in well with the "Peace on Earth" theme, imagining a time when all children will be free. William Blake's "The Lamb" was a hit with both my children, as the author reminded a lamb he was made by God and that Christ was well named after him. Carols included are: "The First Noel," "Silent Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High," and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." Bible excerpts or retellings included are: Jesus' birth in a stable, the shepherds encounter with the angels, and the magi following the star and worshiping Jesus. There are also some gorgeous full page "posters:" Beautiful illustrations with Engelbreit's signature sayings on them.

What I Like: Both my children and I enjoyed this book. Perhaps not as much as Engelbreit's other books - but we're still glad to add it to our collection. The illustrations are lovely and much of the content is great.

What I Dislike: My children (5 and 8) found some of the text slightly on the boring side. There are a couple of rather philosophical pieces that are better suited to an older crowd. In addition, not all the text is specifically Christmas related. Examples include the poem "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth." I didn't mind this too much, but my children did.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: 5 to adult.

Publishing Info: Zonderkidz; 2013; ISBN: 978-0310743408; hardback, 40 pgs., $17.99

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Special Info: In this book, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are sometimes shown with halos. Also, check out our reviews for other Mary Engelbreit Christmas books.


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