Once upon a silent night by Dawn Casey and Katie Hickey

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A retelling of the nativity story is an apt reminder that its core is about love, the love of the family, of the mother for her child, of the animals that helped with the shelter they were given. A family finding no rooms or even beds left at the inn, retire to the stable to await the birth of their child. The cow offers her manger as a bed, the donkey his hay to keep him warm, the doves in the rafters will coo him to sleep, the sheep will give him some wool to keep him warm,  even the stones will make a path for people to come and see. All the elements of the environment are there to help bring the baby into the world.

The love that is shown him is overarching, a concentration of support and care that sings with the real meaning of Christmas as people come together to share their love.

This rhyming text will delight younger readers as they predict the rhyming words and learn the line to be able to repeat them as the book is read. The luminous illustrations retell the story with a modern vein, the couple struggling to find a place to stay, their donkey loaded with their possessions, hinting of the journey they are making. The cold, snowy night looms up as the snow covered branches surround the stable, framing it as the angels sing on high. Others come to see the family, children singing and adults bringing light.

A Christmas story, the basis is love, that of the family, and the animals that helped revealing their compassion for this homeless family in need. But it is not only a Christmas story, the story of the nativity impels us to think outside our own family at this time of the year, to reach out to others to offer love and compassion just as the animals have in this tale, offering what they have to the new born child.

Themes: Christmas, Love, Animals, Nativity.

Fran Knight