The 8lb 6oz Baby Jesus: a kids’ book review

I am a father of four and I appreciate a good Christmas picture book, something that explains the meaning of Christ’s coming, in ways which are accessible and vivid for my children. And of course, cultural sensitivity is important too. There are too many Jesus books where Jesus, Mary and Joseph appear in Northern European guise, instead of as olive-skinned Mediterarian Jews. That Baby in the Manger by Anne Neuberger discusses how one Catholic parish wrestled with how Jesus appeared in their annual Christmas crèche and how they expressed the message that Christ came for one and all.
Anne Neuberger, the author, is a religious educator and children’s author who has produced teaching resources on Catholic customs and kids’ books on saints, notably Saint Francis & His Feathered Friends (Tau Publishing, 2013), and Saint  Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks  (Novalis, 2013). That Baby in the Manger is illustrated by Chloe Pitkoff, a Brooklyn artist and student at Davidson College.

The story begins with first graders from the parish school visiting the church during Advent to look at the Christmas crèche. Mr. Gonzalez sits in the pew, watching and listening as the students discuss how Jesus is missing, not yet placed in the crèche, and the ways the Jesus used in the church crèche has blond curls and blue eyes. Father Prak explains to the children that the real Jesus probably had dark hair and eyes and that their statues are just there to help them reimagine Jesus in the stable.

Mr. Gonzalez remembers a similar discussion with his daughter when she was a little girl. He goes home after the children leave, and digs out his daughter’s old doll, swaddles it and returns to the church and lays it in the manger, offering it as a more accurate proxy for baby Jesus. On Christmas Day the church is full. The first-grader each came to Mass lovingly carrying their own dolls, with a wild diversity of shapes and sizes. They sang Away in a Manger and each placed their doll near the manger.

The story shows how Jesus came to us all. Neuberger’s words are illustrated by Pitkoff’s drawings—watercolor and colored-pencil sketches—in vibrant color.  I enjoyed this book a lot, as did my kids (though, it didn’t hold the attention of my two-year-old). This is a perfect addition to our Advent & Christmas library. Four stars -★★★★

Notice of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

The Hairy Choose Balloons : a kids’ book review

I’m a fan of John Ortberg. I’ve listened to his sermons on the Menlo Park Church podcast and read several of his books. He is called, with affection, Dallas-for-Dummies for his ability to translate the writings of his late mentor Dallas Willard into the language of the people. Your Magnificent Chooser is a short children’s book designed to help kids understand how to make good choices.

978-1-4964-1742-8This is not a children’s story but a poem designed to teach kids. He explores the things we choose, what bad choices look like, and how God wants us to choose for ourselves. Illustrations by Robert Dunn personify (or creaturefy?) our Choosers as a furry balloon following us everywhere and into every situation. We learn, “a Chooser is a thing/ That is not just for you,/ Because everyone else/ Has their own Chooser too” (17). Ortberg helps children use their Choosers to love others, use  Chooser often and use it to make good choices (just like Jesus would).

Three of my kids are at an age where they appreciate this book (ages 6, 7.5, and nine). We’ve had several discussions since I first read it, on our Choosers and the importance of choosing wisely. They enjoyed it and got them talking. That strikes me as a good book.

I’ve tried to instill in my own kids the importance of good choices. I let them choose things (and sometimes suffer the consequences of poor choices) because I want them to learn to choose and choose wisely. Ultimately, I want them to choose Jesus. We talk often about what good choices are and the options available to them. Ortberg’s book provides a means to deepen and extend the conversation, towards the mundane and the sacred.

This book didn’t grab me the way some of our picture books do, but the kids really liked it.  As a parent concerned that our kids learn to make good choices, a book like this provides language to help kids think about, visualize and understand what good choices are. Therefore, I give this book four stars.

Note: I received this book from Tyndale Books in exchange for my honest review.

Beyond the Sticker Shock: a kids book review

When I opened up the David Sticker Book with my daughter she was initially disturbed. Here was a book where people, animals, and various objects weren’t properly colored (while the rest of the book was). I showed her the stickers at the back of the book intended to fill in the blanks in the story. For the next several minutes she was consumed by finding the right sticker for the right blank. Some were easy for her (people in the foreground objects, etc), but there were also butterflies and birds that blended into the background. All and all, completing the pictures was a fun experience. When we were done, we read the story of David which included his anointing, his fight with Goliath, his serenading of Saul and Saul trying to kill him. The book itself covers 1 Sam 16-19 but the last page reveals a glimpse of David as King.

The David Sticker Book by Karen Williamson, Illustrated by Amanda Enright

This book is listed as being for children “3 & up.” I did the stickers with my five year old. My three-year-old may have done it, my five year old was better at it (all the stickers are in the right place).  My three-year-old wasn’t too disturbed by the fact that I didn’t  read it for her. What I was more interested in was would either of them find this book interesting when the stickers were all placed? I think that Karen Williamson and Amanda Enright did a good job making the Biblical story accessible for children. However the novelty did wear off a little. When I was looking for this book to post my review I found it wedged underneath the couch.

However my three-year-old happily had me read it to her when I pulled it out.  I personally enjoyed this and loved how much my kids liked the stickers. What fun.

Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.