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Christmas books for children

by
25 November 2022

Madeleine Davies looks at some possible choices

REVIEWING Christian children’s books is a reminder of how challenging it can be to convey abstract concepts, regardless of a reader’s age. My two-year-old enjoyed God’s Love in a Nutshell, in which a small squirrel learns that God’s love is always present, even if it can’t be squeezed into various receptacles. The book has echoes of Sam McBratney’s popular Guess How Much I Love You stories, and I appreciated that the relationship between the Tall and Tiny squirrels wasn’t specified, making the book suitable for children in different family scenarios. It’s difficult to be sure how much a toddler has understood a book’s message, but mine enjoyed the depiction of different emotions, throughout which God’s love remains constant.

Also suitable for younger readers is The King of Christmas, which follows a simple question-and-answer format (“The sky where the birds fly — is the King of Christmas there? No!”). With a simple family service liturgy, and Bible notes for parents at the end, it reflects the publisher’s belief that “families are little churches”. The story includes darker images of the crucifixion, and more complex concepts that will require some explaining (“The word, where he promises to be found — is the King of Christmas there? Yes!”).

Popular with nine-year-old Isla was Bob Hartman’s Rhyming Christmas, which tells the story through lively illustrations by Mark Beech that owe something to Quentin Blake, and zips along with jolly rhymes (“A king’s been born! That’s what it means. Judaea way, or so it seems”). She found it funny, and liked the pictures, which “go really well with the story”. She also thought that it would work well for children who don’t have a churchgoing background — a reminder that these make up the majority of school intakes in 2022 (a 2014 Bible Society survey found that 30 per cent of the secondary-school children sampled did not identify that the nativity was a Bible story).

The illustration by Mark Beech for “One caring cousin came up with a plan”, which appears in Bob Hartman’s Rhyming Christmas

Also enjoyed by Isla, and pitched at primary school-aged children, is Friends and Heroes: The nativity story, which uses illustrations taken from the 3D animated films of the same name. With each page headed by the Bible verse that corresponds to the story text, this could serve as a bridge between simpler picture books and the Bible itself. The illustrations, which are rather angular and flat, might not appeal to everyone, and made this reviewer nostalgic for Kees de Kort, the brilliant Dutch children’s illustrator, who died earlier this year.

The Action Bible Christmas has a clever concept: 25 stories about the birth of Jesus, told from the perspective of a cast of characters, including the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, Anna, and even the blanket used by Mary to hold Jesus. Accompanied by vivid comic-book-style illustrations, it would be ideal for imaginative readers ready to learn more about the place of the Christmas story in the Bible as a whole.

The final word goes to Rachael, on Share a Story Bible: Christmas activity book, a fun collection of activities for the under-fours, including the all-important stickers (pleasingly huge in this case): “Excellent! Thumbs up!”

 

God’s Love in a Nutshell
Hilary Robinson
Mandy Stanley, illustrator
SPCK £7.99
(978-0-281-08622-1)
Church Times Bookshop £7.19

 

The King of Christmas: All God’s children search for Jesus
Todd R. Hains
Natasha Kennedy, illustrator
Lexham Press £12.99
(978-1-68359-663-9)
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

 

Bob Hartman’s Rhyming Christmas
Bob Hartman
Mark Beech, illustrator
SPCK £6.99
(978-0-281-08636-8)
Church Times Bookshop £6.29

 

Friends and Heroes: The nativity story
Deborah Lock
Candle Books £6.99
(978-1-78128-416-2)
Church Times Bookshop £6.29

 

The Action Bible Christmas: 25 stories about Jesus’ arrival
Sergio Cariello
David C. Cook £14.99
(978-0-8307-8464-6)
Church Times Bookshop £13.49

 

Share a Story Bible: Christmas activity book
Deborah Lock
Jennifer Davison, illustrator
Lion Children’s Books £6.99
(978-0-7459-7999-1)
Church Times Bookshop £6.29

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