Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review - The First Christmas

The First Christmas
by Gaby Goldsack
illustrated by Caroline Pedler
Date: 2004
Publisher: Parragon
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

The First Christmas tells us the story of Mary & Joseph's journey to Bethlehem & Jesus' birth in a lowly stable. This retelling of the story is beautifully illustrated & reminds us of why we celebrate Christmas.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I find it incredible that this is the only digital picture book of the Nativity that our local library has, given how many Christian books it carries. I'm even more amazed that this is the one they chose for their collection, as it's a weird choice for a children's book. There are apparently two versions of this story: one from the Gospel of Matthew and one from the Gospel of Luke. This book went with the story from the Gospel of Matthew... so be prepared to explain the Massacre of the Innocents to preschoolers.

When this book took such a dark turn, I was pretty much flabbergasted. I'm not a Christian myself, but I've heard the story of Jesus' birth plenty of times. I've also heard about King Herod and his desire to kill off the new baby king. But I think this is the first time I've ever seen the two combined in a picture book for young children. There's probably a reason for that!

Aside from the rather macabre turn this story takes, I thought that it probably wouldn't be appropriate for anyone other than Christian children, as the text repeatedly talks about Jesus saving everyone. But that's kind of a weird concept for non-Christians, and since it's not explained exactly what that means or how that works in this book, it could be confusing for some readers.

Technically speaking, I wasn't impressed by the writing. The whole book is done in rhyming verse, and it's quite clunky. Reading it aloud would be awkward. The pictures are okay. Some are cuter than others.

Overall, I was just disappointed. The only people who'd really get anything out of this are Christians. It wouldn't make a great teaching tool for kids of other faiths who might be interested in the Nativity story. And I wish the baby-killing bits had been left out. That just doesn't seem like it belongs in a children's Christmas picture book.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.14 out of 5

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