Christmas in the barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Ill. by Anna Dewdney. HarperCollins, 2016. ISBN 9780062379863
First published in 1952, but reprinted with new full-colour illustrations, Christmas in the Barn is a retelling of the Nativity from the perspective of the barn animals. As dusk comes and night settles, and the animals take up their usual places and positions two people come into the barn and before long, without fuss or fear, Mary gives birth. The star shines, the shepherds and the Wise Men arrive and the baby is laid in a manger, no crib for a bed.
Told in rhyme this is a charming retelling of the traditional story that underpins the celebration of Christmas that is quite secular in its interpretation, making it perfect for sharing and explaining what is behind the images and imagery that is common at this time.
While some schools and communities have bowed to political correctness and taken the story of the Nativity out of the curriculum, I believe that given the widespread celebration of Christmas in Australia, all children should know its origins so they can understand the importance placed on it, just as they should know the stories and understandings behind the commemorations and celebrations of other religions. Because this version makes no reference to God - indeed neither the people nor the baby are even named because the emphasis is on the warmth, safety and harmony of everyone and everything in the barn - it is perfect for introducing very young children or those unfamiliar with Christmas to the basis of the beliefs of those who celebrate.