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More than just the stable story

24 November 2010

In these books for children aged two to 11 are prayers, activities, and many good retellings of Bible narratives

Allison Blyghton, parent: The Christmas story told in very simple language, with a series of concertina pictures. Juliette (aged four) liked moving the pictures. They are naïvely drawn, which complements the storytelling. Jesus is described as a special baby; and the story begins with the visit of the angel to Mary, and ends with the arrival of the Three Wise Men. I would say that this book is suitable for very young children.

My Little Christmas Story
Christina Goodings

Claudine Gévry, illustrator
Lion £3.99 (£3.60)

Allison Blyghton, parent: The story begins with the visit of the angel to Mary, and does not gloss over Joseph’s initial sadness that Mary’s baby is not his baby. The writing is atmospheric (the shepherds are disturbed by wild animals who shuffle through the shadows). Jesus is described as God’s Son, who will grow up to show the world God’s love. The visit of the Wise Men is preceded by their encounter with a pensive-looking Herod, and succeeded by the flight into Egypt.

Who’s Hiding?
Vicki Howe
Krisztina Kállai Nagy, illustrator
Barnabas £6.99 (£6.30)

Ed Beavan, uncle: This book was a big hit with my niece and nephews. In rhyming couplets, it faithfully retells the story of the nativity, with various characters revealed behind the lift-the-flap doors. It is nicely illustrated, too.

Isabella, aged six: I liked this book, they were all rhyming words. I’m really looking forward to Christmas now.

Ten Little Sheep
Jan Godfrey and Honor Ayres
Barnabas £6.99 (£6.30)

Ten Little Sheep
Jan Godfrey and Honor Ayres
Barnabas £6.99 (£6.30)

Allison Blyghton, parent: The sheep come over the hill, yawning and half-asleep, with increasingly loud baas. Juliette (aged four) loved it, and picked up the rhythm very quickly. And, of course, as the sheep have just slumped asleep, they are disturbed by the arrival of the angel. Jesus is de­scribed as Christ the Saviour and the Son of God. The sheep are joyful as they go running over the hills and far away to tell the world Jesus is born.

The Busy Christmas Stable
Juliet David

Sarah Pitt, illustrator
Candle Books £5.99 (£5.40)

Lisa McKeown, parent: The illustrations and the colours used in this book are wonderful. The story of the nativity is told in a way that all children of Louie’s age group (he is two) would enjoy and understand. This book has many interactive games and pop-up windows that kept Louie captivated throughout, although some of them were quite stiff when he tried to move them on his own.

He enjoyed being able to play along with the “Can you find?” prompts, and I liked the educational counting games.

It Was Christmas Night
Sophie Piper

Emily Bolam, illustrator
Candle Books £4.99 (£4.49)

Lisa McKeown, parent: This push-and-pull playbook was a good read for Louie (aged two). He was able to hold the book and turn the pages himself because of its compact size. He also enjoyed pushing and pulling the tags himself. This book gives a simplified version of the nativity story, which Louie was able to follow without losing interest. The major let-down was the old-fashioned illustrations, which seem to follow the simple style of the story. I would also have liked more educational features. All in all, it was a simple read that just lacked something.

Gift books

The Tale of Baboushka
Elena Pasquali
Lucia Mongioj, illustrator
Lion Children’s £5.99 (£5.40)

Ed Beavan, uncle: This book is about Baboushka, an old lady who is visited by the Three Wise Men on their way to visit Jesus. As a result of this, she herself goes off to search for Jesus, giving out gifts to children along the way. She never actually finds Jesus, which I found a bit disap­pointing. (Sorry to spoil the ending.)

Harry, aged six: I liked it when the Three Wise Men came to visit. I liked the pictures, too.

Journey into the Bible
Lois Rock
Andrew Rowland, illustrator
Lion £8.99 (£8.10)

Stanley Drew, aged 8: I really liked reading this book: it was like going on an adventure into ancient times. The book starts at the beginning of time, and then travels through time (making me feel like Doctor Who) on 20 journeys to different stories in the Bible. I found out about different places like Egypt, Babylon, and Persia, and the people that lived there. It tells you things about their lives, like the work they did, and the way they worshipped. The illustrations are great, really colourful, and I especially liked the maps. This book is not just a storybook, which is what I liked about it — it teaches you lots, too. I think other children my age will love it; it is a good Christmas gift.

Just Because
Rebecca Elliott

Lion Children’s £5.99 (£5.40)

Ed Beavan, uncle: The blurb on the sleeve says that this book “deserves a place on every bookshelf”, but I find it hard to agree. It tells the story of Toby, and his close relationship with his disabled sister, Clemmie, and gives the reason for various events in their lives as “just because”, which even for six-year-olds I felt was slightly simplistic.

The lovely thing is that my niece and nephews did not notice anything different about Clemmie.

Prayer books

Thank You God: Daytime and night-time prayers for little children
Sophie Piper
Catherine Vase, illustrator
Lion £6.99 (£6.30)

Jane Oden, parent: This is an ideal prayer book for four-to-five-year-olds, and would work well with some explanation for those younger than that. With prayers such as “Today will be busy”, “The end of a busy day”, “Oops”, and “Tomorrow will be better”, it can be used to top-and-tail the day.

Prayers for a Better World
Sophie Piper

Mique Moriuchi, illustrator
Lion £5.99 (£5.40)

Jane Oden, parent: The delightful paint and collage illustrations by Mique Moriuchi give this book a truly global feel, and make it look very attractive. Equally, the content does not disappoint. This collection of prayers deals with issues that concern children, from family and friends at home to the environment and world peace, and is chosen from a range of traditional and modern sources. It is aimed at five-to-seven-year-olds, and those at the top end of that range might enjoy using it as a prayer book on their own.

Sofia, aged six: I like it because it helps you to see how much God does in our world, and the pictures are really sweet.

Peace on Earth: Poems and prayers for peace
Sophie Piper

Giuliano Ferri, illustrator
Lion £5.99 (£5.40)

Jane Oden, parent: This book contains both new and well-known prayers and poems for peace, such as the prayer of Francis of Assisi. Others include one by Mother Teresa, and a traditional Gaelic blessing. They are grouped by the themes of “One World”, “What to do in a War”, “Peace and Trust”. Some of the more poignant prayers are those based on biblical texts, such as the Good Shepherd of Ezekiel 34, and the Sermon on the Mount. A few contain language that is a bit wishy-washy. Language and concepts touched on, such as “landmines”, and “wall of angry bullet-fire”, mean that it is definitely for children aged about ten. The cover illustration is not that appealing, but the ones inside are. This book would make a good spring­board for discussing what peace means in a Christian sense. Annabel, aged ten-and-three-quarters, described the book as “soothing, with a slow rhythm”. Perfect bedtime reading.

An Angel to Watch Over Me
Sophie Piper
Sophie Allsopp, illustrator
Lion £5.99 (£5.40)

Jane Oden, parent: With its sugary-pink-and-silver padded cover, this is definitely one for the girls, and the illustrations have a distinct Flower Fairies feel about them. Annabel (aged ten-and-three-quarters) especially liked the use of borders around the writing, and the general layout. It contains a collection of traditional and well-known prayers, blessings, and poems, some based on the words of the Bible, some with an angelic theme. These who are into angels will probably like this, although the way the poems and prayers are mixed together might be confusing in terms of teaching a child to pray.

Activity books

The Christmas Star
Juliet David

Helen Prole, illustrator
Candle Books £1.99 (£1.80)

Faith Buck, parent: The book is just a few pages long, but it has lots of text crammed into headed passages. There is a Christmas-activity idea on every page, each of which could be adapted for most age groups. Tynan (aged four) was not too interested in the story, but enjoyed the poster with stickers to attach, and the colouring sheet that came with the pack.

Puddle Pen Christmas
Juliet David

Helen Poole, illustrator
Candle Books £6.99 (£6.40)

Faith Buck, parent: This board book was a real hit with Tynan, aged four. He thoroughly enjoyed using the “puddle pen” to reveal hidden illus­trations (on separate pieces of card stored in the back of the book). While he “coloured” just one of the five cards, we had a good half-an-hour of concentrated silence, which is a rarity in this household. The nativity story is told in brief passages, with useful Bible references on each page.

1 2 3 Christmas
Jocelyn Miller, John Williams and Richard Deverell

Lion £5.99 (£5.40)

Allison Blyghton, parent: An easy-to-use book, even if, like me, you are scared of crafts. There are great ideas including bows, stars, and boxes, and recipes for peppermint creams, snow­ball cakes, and Christmas-pudding truffles. Encouragingly, you are not expected to use anything other than ordinary objects, and so the items are relatively cheap to make.

Laura, aged six: I want to make the angels with stars.

My Very First Christmas Story Sticker Book
Lois Rock

Alex Ayliffe, illustrator
Lion £2.99 (£2.70)

Faith Buck, parent: Tynan (aged four) enjoyed finding the correct stickers to place over the silhouette areas in each illustration. The nativity is told in short passages, with large, colourful pictures throughout. At the bottom of each double-page spread there is a brief activity to encourage young readers to think more about the story.

The Barnabas Christmas Sticker Book
Bethan James and Jenny Tulip Barnabas

£3.99 (£3.60)

The Barnabas Christmas Sticker Book
Bethan James and Jenny Tulip Barnabas

£3.99 (£3.60)

Faith Buck, parent: Stickers are supplied to fill in the missing parts of the illustrations on each page (there are guide pictures at the back of the book to help). Tynan (aged four) didn’t really grasp the concept, but was happy to place the stickers where he saw fit. There is also a frieze to decorate to create your own nativity scene. This is not a book to keep — more a pair of activities to pass an hour or so.

Bible stories

The Lion Storyteller Christmas Book
Bob Hartman

Krisztina Kállai Nagy, illustrator
Lion £12.99 (£11.70)

Laura, aged six: I liked reading about the little lambs who searched through the dark night to find baby Jesus.

Allison Blyghton, parent: Loads to read in this book. Christmas stories from the Bible, stories about Christmas traditions, and Christmas tales and legends, all written in modern language that will appeal to children. There are stories from many countries including Mexico, Sweden, Germany, and Syria. And Bob Hartman has included some brilliant activities for groups, to open up the stories.

Children of God: Storybook Bible
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Collins £9.99 (£9)

Laura, aged six: I really liked the pictures in this book, and I liked being able to read the prayers at the end of the stories. Mummy read the story of Jacob and the angels going up to heaven, and the story of Jesus being born.

Allison Blyghton, parent: This beautiful book has lovely illustrations influenced by African colours and movement. The stories are written in strong and evocative language by Archbishop Tutu.

Bible Stories for Little Angels
Sarah J. Dodd
Dubravka Kolanovic

Lion £7.99 (£7.20)

Allison Blyghton, parent: This is a pleasant collection of stories that includes the creation and the expulsion from Eden, Noah’s Ark, Abraham, Moses, and Daniel, from the Old Testament. The New Testament highlights include, surprisingly, the raising of Jairus’s daughter, as well as more usual selections such as the calming of the storm and the birth of Jesus. The story of the crucifixion is completed with the resurrection. Shame about the vacuous pictures.

Figures in brackets are Church Times Bookshop prices.

Figures in brackets are Church Times Bookshop prices.

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