Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good King Wenceslas

In 1853, an Angelican priest named John M. Neale wrote the lyrics to the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas," which tells the story of a real 10th century Christian Behmian king, well known for his generosity. In the book Good King Wenceslas, illustrator Tim Ladwig brings this carol to life, showing the king watching a poor man gathering sticks for his fire one bone-chilling, snowy evening. The king instructs his young page to gather food and wine for the man, then the two walk into the snowy night to deliver it. The page isn't sure he can make it through the deep drifts, so the king instructs him to walk behind him, in his footsteps. Finally, they deliver the food and drink to the poor man, and the carol reminds us:
"Therefore, Christians all, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing."

The book uses all the verses of the song; except for a short introduction (which explains who the king was), there is no additional text. The last page of the book features simple piano sheet music and all the lyrics to the carol.

What I Like: Tim Ladwig's illustrations are gorgeous, featuring the shadows and lights cast by candles and fireplaces, and the glow of the moon on snowy scenes. He does a superb job of bringing this traditional carol to life. The cover of the book does the inner illustrations no justice at all.

I also must admit I didn't know the carol before reading this book. No matter. I hopped onto YouTube to listen to it, and immediately enjoyed it. I also let my children listen to the carol before we read the book. (You could also look at the book while the carol is playing, but there are a number of pages in the book that are wordless. These add a great deal to the story, showing the page gathering food, and showing the poor man's reaction to the gift of the food - but make it difficult to listen to the carol and look at the book at the same time.)

What I Dislike: Some of the lyrics are slightly modified from the original version, presumably to make the carol easier for young children to understand.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: According to the publisher, 5 and up, but my 3 year old likes the book, too.

Publishing Info: Eerdmans; 2005; ISBN: 978-0802852090; hardback, 32 pgs., $17.

Buy Now at Amazon.com for $11.56
OR buy at ChristianBook.com for $11.99



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1 comment:

Bronwen Scott-Branagan said...

This is a very attractive presentation based on the lovely carol that so many of us like to sing with our children at Christmas. with the great illustrations it should appeal to both children and their parents.