Review Blog

Dec 17 2015

The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski

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Random House Childrens, 1984. ISBN 9780385755184
Regardless of one's religious beliefs or lack of them, I believe that it is an important part of our role as teachers to enable students to understand the origins of a time of year that claims our attention like no other. This book which uses the text from the King James version of the Bible is the perfect introduction. Superbly illustrated by Jan Pienkowski using silhouettes against the most stunning backdrops, it portrays the story in a unique way that does not interfere with any preconceived, more classical images the reader might have.
The illustrations bring the text to life, giving it meaning where there may have been none because of the unfamiliar syntax of such long-ago words. Pienkowski has interpreted the text in his own way with much detail that even being in silhouette form evoke emotion and movement and intrigue. And there is whimsy such as the two small figures on the poop deck of the Wise Men's ship, who are pointing in different directions and plainly arguing about which way is East. As well as the exquisite illustrations, the pages are embellished with all sorts of delightful touches that make the reader feel they have one of those illuminated books of old in their hands.
This is the perfect book for beginning the Christmas Countdown - as classic as sharing 'Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
Barbara Braxton

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