Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Review: The Story of Christmas

The Story of Christmas, written by Gwen Ellis and published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., is a colorful retelling of the birth of Christ and the events surrounding it. Based on the Read and Share™ Bible, the book begins with the birth of John the Baptist. Next comes the appearance of the angel first to Mary and then to Joseph, the trip to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, the arrival of the wise men bringing gifts, the flight to Egypt, and finally the return home to Nazareth. The “Can You Retell the Story?” activity at the end of the book is a great way for children to learn to tell the story themselves.

The very first time I read the book to my three-and-a-half-year-old, I was impressed by the clarity and simplicity with which these Bible stories are retold in language she could readily understand – and without extraneous embellishments! As I read aloud the truths I’ve known and loved since early childhood, I was gripped once again by the reality of Christ’s humble birth and the fact that the King of Kings was laid, not in a crib in a palace, but in “the box where the animals were fed” when HE was born!

Besides the reinforcement activity at the very end of the book, each two-page story also concludes with a thought-provoking question. For example, having recounted the angel’s message to Joseph (“Name the baby Jesus. He will save people from their sins.”), the follow-up is: “The name Jesus means “savior.” What does a savior do?” As we endeavor to communicate the message of the Gospel to our little one on a daily basis and as we work to explain the true meaning of Christmas amid our culture’s abundant distractions, I’m thankful for the opportunities this book presents to highlight these Bible truths.

Although designed in a cartoon style, the illustrations by Steve Smallman appropriately capture the realities of the biblical accounts. Watching my little one’s reactions as she listens and looks at the drawings, I appreciate the care that has been taken to produce an excellent teaching tool for little ones like her. The suggested age range for this book is four to seven. Because of the book’s simple yet engaging style, however, I would even recommend it for two-year-olds or younger.

The book comes in a hardcover format and is 24 pages long. The version I received also includes an animated DVD with six stories from the life of Jesus (approximately 17 minutes total length) as well as coloring pages and other bonus features. Two stories on the DVD (John the Baptist and Jesus Is Born) complement the book. The price for the hardcover book is $7.99 and $10.99 for the hardcover book with the DVD. Based on the quality of the materials and the content and educational value, I would say those prices are fair, and I think The Story of Christmas would be a great addition to a young family's Christmas library!

A complimentary copy of the book was provided to me, as a reviewer for Mama Bzz, by Thomas Nelson, Inc. in exchange for today’s blog tour.

A big “Thank-you!” to the folks at Thomas Nelson, Inc. for the opportunity to enjoy and review this wonderful book!

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