Reviews for Birds of Bethlehem

Booklist Reviews 2012 November #1
While pecking for grain in the fields, Bethlehem's birds discuss what they saw the previous night. A green bird noticed many people walking over the hills. A yellow bird observed something unusual: the inn was full. A blue bird saw something strange: a couple housed in the inn's stable. A red bird witnessed something extraordinary: an angel appearing to shepherds, announcing "tidings of great joy," and telling them to visit a baby in a manger. Together, the birds fly to the stable to see the miracle. While stories about animals visiting baby Jesus are not uncommon, it is unusual to find one with a short text that traces the Nativity story reverently and without sentimentality. On the handsome dust jacket, the title's silver letters have an iridescent sheen that shifts colors as the angle of light changes. It's a playful, slightly mysterious element welcoming children to the story within. Painted in acrylics, the illustrations are notable for their simplified forms, pleasing compositions, and subtle combinations of colors. An inviting read-aloud choice for Christmas. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2012 December
'Round the Christmas tree

When our kids were little, one of the traditions of the Christmas season was unpacking the ornaments and books. Yes, books. These books were only for December and were as important to the season as the plastic icicles and handmade tree skirt from Aunt Dee Dee. We added new books every year and, if I still had little children living in my house, I would add several new ones from this year’s crop.

Those looking for books that reflect the biblical Christmas story will not be disappointed. Three veterans are back with their take on the Nativity.

Tomie dePaola’s tender, simple tale will delight young children with a bird’s-eye view of the big day in The Birds of Bethlehem. Talking among themselves, the birds tell of the unusual, strange, spectacular, awesome and miraculous event they see. These adjectives are unveiled as the story develops, building a sense of quiet drama. DePaola’s respectful but accessible illustrations add to the story, making this a book that will be enjoyed over and over again.

When he was bouncing along the roads in Africa, Ashley Bryan thought of Mary and Joseph on the road to Bethlehem and wrote a simple poem that examines the question of Who Built the Stable? Lushly illustrated in gouache and tempera paints, this special volume will encourage readers to imagine some of the lesser players in the story.

Poet Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrator Stephen Alcorn collaborate for the gentle Mary’s Song. On one hand, this is a love song to new motherhood and, on the other, it’s the familiar story of baby Jesus and his family. Alcorn’s oversized illustrations in cross-hatched mixed media set the perfect tone as the young mother Mary looks for quiet time with her baby boy. Ahh.


Christmas is also about presents and Santa and reindeer—and there are many new books that celebrate this part of the holiday, too!

One of the sweetest is Just Right for Christmas by Birdie Black, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. After finding a sumptuous bolt of red fabric, the king has a lovel[Fri Aug 29 18:24:32 2014] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. y cloak sewn for his daughter. The sewing maids leave the scraps outside on the steps where they are found by the kitchen maid, who uses the material to make a jacket for her mother. The scraps are passed on and on until the last little bit is used as a scarf for a mouse. This celebration of generosity and making things by hand feels “just right” for the holidays.

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague have a small cottage industry going with books about dinosaurs. Their two newest are sure to become family favorites: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? and How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? It’s fun to see how Yolen and Teague make connections between these two books (mom is knitting in both, the dinosaurs all kiss their grandparents, etc.) but still give each holiday’s traditions its own spotlight. As always, these dinosaur books are more humor than lesson and are the perfect way for little people to laugh at naughtiness.

Another fabulous dinosaur series is Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs., which pits a red dinosaur against such adversaries as “bedtime” and “the potty.” This time it’s Dinosaur vs. Santa. The dinosaur is like an energetic preschooler, just learning to control himself. It’s impossible to read this book without laughing. I mean, the dinosaur is wearing all varieties of Christmas sweaters and pajamas! But, of course, that’s not all. Dinosaur growls and roars his way through the joys and jobs of the season: writing to Santa, decorating the tree, being extra good and even going to bed on Christmas Eve. When Dinosaur sneaks downstairs to investigate the sounds of jingle bells, readers will worry right along with him: “Did Santa see you? Will he put you on the Naughty list?” The final reassuring turn of the page answers these important questions.


Santa from Cincinnati, written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, has the feel of a classic tale that could become a family favorite. Barrett (of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs fame) cleverly imagines the childhood of Santa Claus, told as a remembrance from Santa himself. In a scene from the hospital nursery, there is smiling baby Claus, wrapped in a bright red blanket, his nose round and red. Every page holds a treat for children who know the story of the grownup Santa. Here we see baby Santa playing with a reindeer and snowman mobile, and later we see family pictures celebrating his first words (“ho, ho, ho”), first steps (in dad’s big black boots) and favorite snack (cookies). It’s hard to imagine a Christmas-crazy kid not falling hard for this one . . . and imagining the childhoods of other holiday icons.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Peaceably sharing the gleanings of the autumn harvest, a dozen birds discuss the news. The blue pair has seen a couple being led to the stables; the red birds have seen an angel in the sky; the brown ones have heard the heavenly host; etc. The acrylic paintings of the birds and Holy Family (its members left unidentified) are theatrically composed on spacious spreads.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #1
A quiet, simple story told by pairs of birds who witness the Nativity scene in Bethlehem. In turn, each pair of birds comments to others in the flock about something unusual observed in the town. The green birds saw a long line of people, the yellow birds saw that the inn was full, and the blue birds saw a man and his wife being led to the stable outside the inn. Other birds see and hear an angel announcing the birth of a special baby, and still others hear angels singing. Finally, all the birds fly into the stable and see "a young mother, her husband and their newborn baby," though there is no explanation of their significance. The subdued text fails to convey much emotion or excitement, despite the fact that the birds refer to the appearance of the angels as "extraordinary" and "spectacular." DePaola's simplified, folk-art–inspired style is well-suited to the stylized birds, but the announcing angel has a grim face, and the heavenly hosts are downright spooky, like flying aliens. Many other Nativity stories, such as Hurry! Hurry! Have You Heard? by Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrated by Jane Dyer (2008), more effectively convey the excitement of animal characters journeying to the stable. (Picture book/religion. 3-7) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #2

No stranger to holiday stories, dePaola (Strega Nona's Gift; The Night Before Christmas) offers a bird's-eye view of the Nativity. Pairs of excited, colorful birds share the strange occurrences they've noticed ("We were roosting in a tree on the hill.... We saw an extraordinary thing," says the red bird and his mate). The art is classic dePaola: the simple shapes of the birds, rolling hills, and stable are delineated by soft lines painted in opaque acrylics of vivid teal and orange-red, and muted by a soft patina. The effect is as pleasing as the whimsical storytelling, as dePaola offers a refreshingly indirect take on how the news of Jesus's birth spread to all creatures. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

K-Gr 3--A bird's-eye view of the Nativity. Early one winter morning in Bethlehem, some colorful birds gather for breakfast and recount the unusual and spectacular sights they have seen over recent days-people streaming into town, a full inn, a man and his wife led to a stable, an angel bringing tidings of joy, and heavenly hosts singing "Glory to God" in the night sky. Avian observers agree to follow the shepherds where they behold the most miraculous sight of all. dePaola does not disappoint with his charmingly simple illustrations and spare text. An ideal read-aloud.--Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library

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