Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two good Advent reads (for kids and grown-ups alike)

I have to admit I am enjoying the re-discovery of the children's section of the library that Gabriel, now 2, has prompted. We brought home an armful of Christmas books from our last trip. Here are two that I've taken particular delight in myself.

The first is The Nativity--the basic biblical text--accompanied by illustrations by Julie Vivas. OK, so the reason I am loving this book is not only that the angel Gabriel has enormous translucent wings andd announces the birth of Jesus over a cup of tea to a Mary who appears to have just come in from hanging laundry to dry. I also love the reality of motherhood that Vivas paints into the story of Christ's birth. She shows Mary's delight with her ever-growing womb. The journey to Bethlehem begins with St. Joseph straining to help a very pregnant Mary onto her precarious perch atop the donkey. (And I thought riding to the hospital in our car was uncomfortable...!) After Jesus is born an exhausted Mary snoozes in the hay next to some curious chickens, while, leaning against Joseph, who cradles the swaddled baby. When Joseph and Mary ride off into Egypt, Mary carries Jesus in a simple sling. I suppose it could sound almost a tad irreverent, but it’s not. Perhaps “earthy” would be a better word to describe the illustrations–to me they seem to gently the tangible, physical, reality of the Incarnation, and the amazing humility of the situation in which God chose to become flesh.

The second, I admit, Gabriel has not yet let me finish, nor is he quite old enough yet to appreciate: A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. We’ve ventured farther into the book than I thought he would allow, because the first section of the book features firemen. Reading even a bit of this book aloud, however, was a treat for me, because the vivid poetic language rolled so easily and beautifully off the tongue. Here’s a bit I particularly enjoyed:

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

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