Review Blog

Oct 23 2014

The Christmas rose by Wendy Blaxland

cover image

Ill. by Lucy Hennessey. Walker Books, 2014. ISBN 9781921720406
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Christmas. Folk tale. Flowers. The folk tale of the Christmas Rose, the white hellebore is retold in this stunningly different book. The white hellebore flowers during the cold winter months and looks a lot like a rose so has been called Christmas Rose for many generations.
In this story, the child, Madelon wants to accompany her uncle to see the baby in the manger, but is told she is too young. Through the story of her making the effort to get through the fields to the stable, the story of the birth of Jesus is told. Children will hear of the Three Kings and their magnificent gifts to the Saviour. They will hear of the child's parents and the animals that surround the manger. They will hear of Madelon and her tears, forming the bush producing the white hellebore, so giving an offering to the child.
Her gift of love is in stark contrast to the opulent gifts of the Three Kings and the practical but expensive gifts of her uncle and his men.
The soft oil pictures by Hennessey are quite different from the styles usually seen in books about Christmas and create images which seem at once far away and intimate. And yet details can be spotted which make clear the basic story of Christmas. They will be a talking point amongst readers of all ages.
This lovely folk tale seems to have arisen from a song during the Middle Ages, and classes may be interested in reading that song, which can easily be found online.
This is a rarely heard story well suited to being presented in classrooms where so many of the Christmas stories are about the customs of Christmas, gift giving, spending money, decorations and feasting. A neat contrast all round.
Fran Knight

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