Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who Was There on Christmas Night?

Who Was There On Christmas Night? uses rhyming verse to teach about the different people and creatures who witnessed Jesus' birth. Written by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton, the text highlights the roles of the donkey that carried Mary, the innkeeper, a cow, a mouse, sheep, angels, a shepherd, and a dove. Each stanza begins with "Who is that ...?" then answers the question.

The illustrations by Buket Erdogan are saturated with color! Some seem a little dark, but this is only because every scene takes place at night.

An interactive wheel allows readers to alter portions of the illustrations. For example, children can turn the wheel to change the head on the innkeeper to a baker, a jester or a grandmother. The shepherd's staff can be changed to a lollipop, a pinwheel, a hot dog on a stick or a broom. Kids find this terribly delightful -- especially when the angel sports butterfly wings or the cow wears a bunny tail!

What I Like: My kids like the interactive wheel. Even though it's a pure novelty contributing nothing to the story, it definitely heightens the appeal with my 4- and 5-year-olds. They find it hilarious when the wrong parts are put on the people and animals. I like the tone of the book. It's very sweet and serene, perfect for younger children just starting to learn about the Nativity.

What I Dislike: The text is a little misleading at times. For example, one page asks "Who is that asleep in the hay?" The illustration shows baby Jesus sleeping on hay in the manger, but the text actually refers to the cow standing next to Mary. It explains that the cow "moved aside for Joseph and his chosen bride," but not until after listening children yell out "Jesus!" as the answer to the question. Also, the illustrations are not my favorite. They feature disproportionate characters (big heads and little bodies) and little detail. The texture of the canvas shows through creating a sort of pointillist effect.

Overall Rating: Good.

Age Appeal: The publisher says "3 and up", but I recommend birth to preschool (ages 0-5).

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2009; ISBN: 0310713358; Boardbook; $4.99

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