Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Gift: The Christmas Baby by Marion Dane Bauer




Joseph goes from inn to inn, but one after another, doors are shut to the pleas of the anxious father and mother-to-be.

But the donkey carrying the expectant mother understands their need:
The donkey twisted her ears, nodded her head, and led her master to a stable filled with beasts and fragrant hay.

"Have you heard?" the man asks the beasts.

"We have heard," they answered. "We have been waiting. Come in!"

And the birth of the baby is met with loud brays and bleats and barks. Their "Have you heard" rebounds to the heavens, and the shepherds, the wise men, and the angels soon hear and join the rejoicing in the stable.

Mary and Joseph received them all.

"Give thanks with us," they said to each one.

"God has given us a baby."

And the baby lay in his bed of fragrant hay and smiled at the world, with God's own smile.

Newbery author Marion Dane Bauer clearly aims her narrative of the nativity, The Christmas Baby, Simon and Schuster, 2009) at the youngest listener, relating in spare but elegant language the simplest version of the Christmas story. Indeed, Bauer then generalizes the joy of that birth to include the birth of the listeners as well.

Now, every time a baby is born, stars and angels sing... "Have you heard? Have you heard?"

Mamas and daddies, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles and cousins, and friends travel and bring gifts. "Have you heard?" they say. "Our baby is here."

And when that dear baby was you--do you know what you did?

Yes... of course.

You smiled back at us all...

With God's own smile!

Bauer's text simply connects the miracle of life and love in a way that small children will understand. What works less well here are the less than elegant illustrations of artist Richard Crowley, whose humorous style worked so well in A Very Marley Christmas, but seems, perhaps only to adults, a bit out of place in this otherwise reverent book. Still, this title reads well, a very good choice for the young child who may be hearing the nativity story for the first time.

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