Reviews for Who Built the Stable? : A Nativity Poem


Booklist Reviews 2012 December #1
The award-winning Bryan offers a Nativity story told through the eyes of one young boy. The rhymed couplets introduce a little shepherd who is also apprenticed as a carpenter / in his father's employ. When a pregnant Mary asks if he knows a place that she and Joseph can stay, he welcomes them to his stable. Bryan writes that he got the idea for the book while traveling through Africa, which is reflected in both the book's cultural details and in the diverse characters. Although the African setting extends the universality, it does make for a bit of confusion. On a two-page spread, the text asks, Was Jesus born in Italy, / Russia, Spain, Japan? / No. He was born in Bethlehem. A rich and Verdant land. The artwork shows a very different Bethlehem with an African drummer, a giraffe, a zebra, a monkey, and an elephant, all in a jungle setting. Executed in exuberant folk-style art that shines like stained glass, the pictures have a simplicity that will appeal to children. There's much to look at here. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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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.

A HOLLY, JOLLY CHRISTMAS

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 lovely 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.

YOUNG SANTA

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.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Bryan's child-centered verse involves readers from the very start as it tells the Nativity story from the point of view of the young shepherd/carpenter's apprentice who built that iconic stable. Lush illustrations offer a controlled tumult of verdant flora and fauna. The book ends with the boy welcoming Mary and Joseph to his stable and then communing with Baby Jesus.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #1
Bryan's Christmas offering combines a poignant poem about a shepherd boy who builds his own stable with exuberant paintings in a masterful melding of rhythmic text and dazzling art. His illustrations, in vibrant, glowing hues, fairly leap off the page with swirls of color in stained-glass tones lit by sunshine or starlight. Striped borders frame double-page spreads showing layered scenes of the carpentry shop, the stable and the surrounding countryside, a place of lush plants and huge trees. The boy who builds the stable serves as a shepherd, caring for the family's animals, but he is also a beginning carpenter, apprenticed to his father. The boy builds the stable himself and takes care of the animals there each morning and evening. When he sees Mary and Joseph outside at night with no place to sleep, the boy asks if they need help and offers them his stable. He sweeps the floor, puts fresh hay in the manger, provides a blanket and water and leaves his dog behind to watch over the sleeping couple. At dawn, the boy meets the new baby, proclaiming that this child will also be both a carpenter and a shepherd. Bryan's Bethlehem, a "rich and verdant land," seems an enchanted place where something mysterious and wonderful could happen, especially with a huge, twirling star illuminating the night sky. Brilliant. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 March/April
According to this rhyming picture book, the nativity stable was built by an apprentice carpenter and shepherd boy to house his animals. Upon meeting the weary Mary and Joseph, the boy offered shelter. Bryan's signature color-saturated pictures portray a somewhat tropical Bethlehem as only he could conceive it, with swirling bands and prisms of dazzling color. Every double-spread is framed with a striped border, and the flowing patterns within provide a cheerful feast. Some verses do not scan easily, and some may take issue with an imagined story presented as fact. Purchase where variants on the nativity story are popular. Jan Aldrich Solow, A. Scott Crossfield Elementary School, Herndon, Virginia [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] ADDITIONAL SELECTION Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #2

"A child built the stable./ A little shepherd boy/ Apprenticed as a carpenter/ In his father's employ" is Bryan's (All Things Bright and Beautiful) answer to the title's question. Told in rhyming verse, this touching take on the classic nativity story finds the young carpenter seeing himself in the newborn. ("in his heart he knew:/ The babe would be a carpenter./ He'd be a shepherd too"). Bryan wields tempera and acrylic in strong strokes to evoke Bethlehem, ("A rich and verdant land") with saturated shades of primary and secondary colors, lively expressions on human and animal faces, and sweeping lines to create the impression of movement. Pleasing to the eye and to the ear. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 October

PreS-2--Bryan first thought of the titular question while riding through the hills of Africa. He imagined that the bumpy road was similiar to the one that Mary might have traveled on her way to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. This beautifully written poem answers the question by stating that "A child built the stable./A little shepherd boy/Apprenticed as a carpenter/In his father's employ." When Mary and Joseph are turned away from other places, the little shepherd offers to shelter them. The prose is matched perfectly with Bryan's vibrant tempera and acrylic illustrations. The shepherd boy, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are depicted with warm brown skin tones set against a rainbow of colors. Each spread has a border to highlight the resplendent artwork and text at the bottom of each page. The entire poem is reprinted on the last spread. A welcome addition for all collections.--Diane Olivo-Posner, Los Angeles Public Library

[Page 79]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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