Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Littlest Christmas Kitten

Over the years, there have been many children's picture books that try to tell the story of Christmas by focusing on the animals in the barn where Jesus was born. The Littlest Christmas Kitten by Leona Novy Jackson is one of the more recent examples.

The story begins by showing a mother cat looking for her littlest kitten. Then suddenly a waft of cold air enters the stable and a man and woman enter. The mother cat is startled and leaps into a manger - where she discovers her missing kitten. She grabs the kitten and scurries out of the manger as the people draw closer.

Before the night ends, a baby is crying and the mother places the child in the manger - the same one where the littlest kitten had slept. Angels sing "holy, holy, holy," and the animals "bow down before the child. They knew in their hearts this was a very special baby."

The book ends: "Now, down through the history of cat kingdom, Mother and Father cats tell this story to their kittens...So, whenever you hear a kitten purring on Christmas Eve, you know it is remembering that Holy Night, long long ago."

At the back of the book, there is a list of Christmas symbols - including "Christmas Cats." Here, the author suggests cats have long been associated with Christmas.

What I Like: Kelly Dupre's illustrations remind me of old woodcuts; they aren't colorful, but they are interesting and fun. I also appreciate the desire to draw children into the story through the use of animals. Indeed, if you have a child who is disinterested in most Christmas books because they are "boring," this book may be a good way to introduce your child to the Christmas story.

What I Dislike: I feel this book focuses too much on the cats, and not enough on Jesus. The first five pages of text are all about the mother cat and her kittens, and the ending, about cats telling each other the Christmas story and about kittens purring, emphasizes a totally false story. On the other hand, we never learn who Jesus is or why his birth is so important. The Christmas symbols at the end of the book seem tacked on, and the author never explains why cats are associated with Christmas - an idea that was totally new to me.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: about toddler - kindergarten

Publishing Info: Snaptail Press, 2005; ISBN 978-0930643188; hardback, 32 pgs., $16.00

Buy at Amazon for $12.90

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