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'We listen to his stories'

23 November 2012

A selection of books that tell children the Christmas story. and about prayer and the Christian faith.


The Fox's Tale: The first Christmas
Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen
Candle Books £5.99 (£5.40)

Claire Wood, parent: I would highly recommend this book. We were already fans of Mick Inkpen, who has written and illustrated many other children's books. This one is a joy to read, and was Raphael's absolute favourite. He chose it over and over again. It is the traditional nativity story, but seen through the eyes of a fox (above, and above right). At the beginning of the story he is prowling the hills above Bethlehem, looking for some supper, when suddenly he hears angels singing, and he becomes caught up in the events of Christmas night. April (aged two) liked an illustration that showed the shepherds dancing, which she thought was very funny.

Raphael, aged four: He's a kind fox; he said nice things to Jesus.


The Christmas Story
Karen Williamson
Marie Allen, illustrator
Candle Books £5.99 (£5.40)

Christine Miles, parent: This book, with stiff card pages, tells the Christmas story in 101 pages (every other page is an illustration), and four chapters: "Mary's Visitor"; "Jesus is Born" ; "The Shepherds' Visit"; and "The Wise Men's Journey". Olivia (aged two), who loves books, managed to hold out until page 53 (when Jesus is laid down to sleep in the manger), possibly because the book includes plenty of dialogue, which keeps the pace interesting. She loved our attempts to sing Mary's song, and also the angels singing: "Praise God in heaven. And peace to everyone on earth." And she revisits the page where the innkeeper offers the stable, saying: "Don't worry, stable." Clearly, plenty is going in.


Mary's Song
Lee Bennett Hopkins
Stephen Alcorn, illustrator
Eerdmans £11.99 (£10.80)

Claire Wood, parent: This is a book with large pages, but the text, I think, might be more suited to older children. It is illustrated with drawings in pastel colours - not the brightly coloured pictures that younger children usually like. But Raphael, who is four, was able to follow the idea that Mary just wanted to be alone with her baby, and he liked the spider that came into the story, and the spider's web that spreads across some of the pages. April (aged two) favoured the page where all the animals turn up to see baby Jesus, and make a noise ("Sheep bleated, donkeys brayed and brayed, horses neighed and neighed").














The Child of Christmas
Sophie Piper
Sophy Williams, illustrator
Lion £4.99 (£4.50)

Claire Wood, parent: Raphael (aged four) really enjoyed sitting and listening to this story. There is quite a bit of text on each page; so we read the book in chunks, so that he could concentrate each time. The illustrations were beautiful, and it was nice to have some pages with just pictures, and no text, so that we could talk about what they showed. Raphael's favourite page showed the Wise Men, on their camels, being warned not to go back to Herod.


My Very First Prayers to Know by Heart
Lois Rock
Alex Ayliffe, illustrator
Lion £3.99 (£3.60)

Claire Wood, parent: This book is attractively presented, with a padded cover. It contains 20 prayers, and is best used as a dip-in. I let Raphael (aged four) or April (aged two) choose a prayer before a meal, and we would say it as a grace. Most of the prayers were pitched at their level ("I love to have sand between my toes" prompted thoughts of a trip to the seaside which we had made the day before). Raphael liked the illustration to the "Gentle and good" prayer, because it showed pictures of children doing good things such as stroking a cat, painting, helping with the laundry, and so on.


First Prayers with Jesus
Sophie Piper
Melanie Mitchell, illustrator
Lion £5.99 (£5.40)

Claire Wood, parent: I liked the style of this book: each page had a Bible quote, followed by a simple prayer to match. For example:

The shepherds found Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, and cradled in a manger.
The song of Christmas angels
Rings out from year to year;
Jesus, born so long ago,
Still gathers with us here.
We listen to his stories,
We learn to say his prayer,
We follow in his footsteps
And learn to love and share.

Although I think some of the biblical text went over their heads a little, the bright colours of the illustrations were appealing, and Raphael (aged four) and April (aged two) liked the picture that showed a happy baby Jesus in his crib with children around him.


The Lion Classic Prayer Collection
Lois Rock
Sophy Williams, illustrator
Lion £9.99 (£9)

Stanley Drew (aged nine): I have really enjoyed reading this book; it has beautiful illustrations for every prayer which are colourful and fun. I think it is better for older children (seven and over) as they can read it themselves. The prayers are not too long; so you can read one each day or night. I like that it has prayers for different events in life, like sickness and sad times, and also for happy times, like Christmas and Harvest. The prayer "Respect the Earth" is great, because this is important to children today. I love all the prayers about nature and animals; they make you think about all the amazing things God has given us.



Psalms, Prayers and Praises
Sophie Piper
Angelo Ruta, illustrator
Lion £6.99 (£6.30)

Sally Fraser, parent: This book is a perfect gift for a first holy communion. It is beautifully produced, with gold-foil lettering and a clear jacket-sleeve; and the elegant illustrations appeal to an older age group (seven years and upwards). Many of the selected prayers have a strong biblical foundation, drawn from both the Old and New Testaments.


The Lion Book of Prayers for Me
Christina Goodings
Emily Bolam, illustrator
Lion, £5.99 (£5.40)

Sally Fraser, aunt: This delightful prayer book for the under-fives is small with a squashy, padded cover - perfect for little hands. It is a book of simple prayers for children in their daily lives. Daniel (aged four) enjoyed the prayer of thanks for his family, and he blessed each one in turn, from his great-grandmother to his new baby sister.




David and the Giant
Fiona Veitch Smith
Amy Barnes, illustrator
Crafty Publishing £5.99 (£5.40)

Sally Fraser, aunt: David and the Giant is the third in a series of books about the life of the young King David. This is a fun book, written and illustrated in an imaginative way. The text appears in different shapes and sizes of fount, and the illustrations of the sheep - which stand upright - appear on every page. The height of Goliath is depicted by six fat sheep standing on top of one another.


Candle Bible for Kids: Toddler edition
Juliet David
Jo Parry, illustrator
Candle Books £5.99 (£5.40)

Christine Miles, parent: This toddler tome (160 paper pages) covers 14 Old Testament stories, and 22 from the New Testament.

We changed the words occasionally, to make them more toddler-friendly, but most of the stories were told simply and effectively, and the illustrations are colourful. The eight pages dedicated to the creation narrative, and the seven pages dealing with the fall, are the best for this age that I've seen. "Don't touch!" Olivia (aged two) said of the tree. The slaying of Goliath was told sensitively; but the Good Samaritan was not. And the death of Jesus has the crowd shouting: "Kill Jesus! Kill him!"

What is great, however, is that there are a good number of New Testament stories, including several about miracles and parables.


The Bible for Little Ones
Juliet David
Steve Whitlow, illustrator
Candle Books £5.99 (£5.40)

Christine Miles, parent: The Bible for Little Ones contains 14 stories: seven from the Old Testament and seven from the New. Each is told in two facing pages. In the story of Moses and the bulrushes, we learn: "The wicked king of Egypt was try- ing to kill baby boys." The slaying of Goliath, the Good Samaritan - "beaten up by robbers" - and the death of Jesus, are tricky for parents who are concerned about what can affect a child's imagination.

The illustrations are lively and fun (the sharp-eyed will spot a mouse in each story). But some of the language is possibly a bit difficult (Adam and Eve "disobeyed God", but we changed it to "were naughty"; Joseph's brothers were "jealous" - we said "cross").


On the Road to Bethlehem
Elena Pasquali
Barbara Vanozzi, illustrator
Lion £4.99 (£4.50)

Christine Miles, parent: The first thing that strikes you about the board-book On the Road to Bethlehem is the beautiful naïve-style painted illustrations. And the finger-trails (on the page where Mary is travelling to Bethlehem there are horseshoe cut-outs to put fingers in) help children to interact with the story.

Olivia (aged two) loved the angels singing "Alleluia!" to the shepherds - their finger-trails whoosh up, out of the page, as if to heaven. Also fun was the shepherds running to see Jesus, with a wobbly trail saying, "Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry." We enjoyed the book, even though the type was hard to read in places.


Christmas Activity Fun
Tim Dowley
Candle Books £1.99 (£1.80)

Allison Blyghton, parent: Ideal for rainy days and travel, this little book is packed with activities to amuse children, including odd-one-out, dot-to-dot, spot-the-difference, mazes, and colouring and drawing, all based on the Christmas story.

Juliette (aged six): I like finding the way through the maze to help the Wise Men find the way to Bethlehem.


The Christmas Star: Activity book
Bethan James and Estelle Corke
Barnabas for Children £4.50 (£4.05)

Allison Blyghton, parent: The story of the nativity is combined with on-the-page activities. The book also includes a kit of parts; so children can make up their own Christmas carousel and cast of characters. Children are encouraged to pull out the Christmas star, and press out Bible characters to make four special Christmas scenes. There are activities to occupy different ages.

Juliette (aged six): I liked making the star, and doing the dot-to-dots. I want to make my angel really glittery.


Hands-on Bible Craft Book
Christina Goodings
Adrian Barclay, illustrator
Lion £5.99 (£5.40)

Allison Blyghton, parent: The 16 Bible stories in this book are from both the Old and New Testaments, and include Jonah, Pentecost, and Easter. Alongside brief summaries of the story are crafts of varying difficulty. Activities include a rainbow mobile (Noah), origami frogs (Moses), and a lion mask (Daniel). The book is aimed at the over-fives.


God Helps Me: Sticker Book 1
Juliet David
Clare Caddy, illustrator
Candle £3.99 (£3.60)

Allison Blyghton, parent: Aimed at over-threes, and with more than 60 stickers, this book has stories of people whom God has helped in the Bible: including Noah, Moses, Jairus's daughter, and the five thousand who were fed. Children can complete the pictures with the stickers, and each has a Bible verse that explains the story. A simple and charming book, but not one to entertain children for very long.

Juliette (aged six): I like the picture of Jonah falling into the sea.


Christmas Stable: Build your own
Juliet David
Christine Tappin, illustrator
Candle Books £6.99 (£6.30)

Allison Blyghton, parent: This is aimed at over-threes - but not much older, as the illustrations are very naïve, and the language is a simple retelling of the Christmas story. At each stage, the stable is constructed alongside the story, and is completed with the arrival of the three Wise Men with their gifts. The pieces are sturdy, and each figure has its own stand. You do not need glue, scissors, or knives, but children would need adult help to build the stable.

Juliette (aged six): I want Mummy to be finished with this book so that I can build the stable for baby Jesus.




Can It Be About Me?
Cheryl Moskowitz
Ros Asquith, illustrator
Frances Lincoln £5.99 (£5.40)

Allison Blyghton, parent: These poems are about being at primary school, and are about spelling tests, playground arguments, friends, circle time, and wet play. They are an amusing collection, and each poem has an accompanying brief description.

Laura (aged eight): It's a funny book, and some of the poems are nonsense.


A is Amazing: Poems about feelings
Wendy Cooling, editor
Piet Grobler, illustrator
Frances Lincoln £12.99 (£11.70)

Allison Blyghton, parent: This delightful book contains 33 poems that explore all kinds of feelings - from Amazing to Friendly, and Magical to Zestful. The poets range from John Keats to Wendy Cope, and explore a wide range of emotions, including being friendly, in a huff, good, or naughty; and feeling nostalgic, or unpredictable.

Laura (aged eight): I like Rotten, because it's about someone being miserable, but it's very amusing; and I like Little Sister, because it's like me when Juliette was a baby.


The Real Life Adventures of Maisie the Palace Cat (with CD-ROM)
Carol Arblaster
The Bishop of Bath & Wells,
the Rt Revd Peter Price, narrator
Moathouse Books £9.99

Allison Blyghton, parent: This beautifully illustrated book is about Maisie, the curious cat who lives in and explores the Bishop's palace in Wells. As well as the gentle text, which describes Maisie's adventures, the book also includes a free CD, with songs inspired by Maisie's encounters with the swans, the palace visitors, Sunday dinner, and the palace moat.

Laura (aged eight): I loved this book. The music is beautiful, and I like the sound of the harp. Maisie is really fun. I wish we had a cat like her!

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