Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook by Robin Currie and Constanza Basaluzzo

I have a houseful of children's books but I don't have many children's books on Christianity.

To tell the truth, I'm not a very religious person - I try to attend Sunday mass as best as I can, I know how to recite the entire Rosary, I love singing a lot of the hymns (and other more modern creations) and I do believe in doing good. That's it.

Actually, my father did a great job bringing us up on the Catholic because he'd tell us stories from the bible when I was small and he also bought a set of comic books, which helped to relate the Old Testament and the New Testament in an easy-to-understand format.

I think I know almost every character in the Bible. Except for the minor ones with complicated Jewish names, of course ;-)

Our kids are still too little to understand the major concepts of our Catholic faith - my son knows we go to church every Sunday (he even insists on it when Sunday comes around), he knows that it's "Jesus" up there on the crucifix and that we say our bedtime prayers to him.

He kind of knows that Heaven is up there but I'm not sure if he grasps the concept fully yet. If there's one thing my son understands fully about our faith, it's CHRISTMAS. Now that he knows the months of the year, the days of the week and dates, he knows important dates like his birthday and of course, Christmas - all for the presents and partying, what else?

For our family, Christmas is a simple tradition of gathering together, eating my Mum's roast beef, which evolved to roast chicken when cholesterol levels started escalating, going for Christmas midnight mass and of course, the opening of presents on Christmas morning besides the crazy fun he has with his cousins.

Now that Christmas is beginning to become materialistic for him, The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook (The Baby Bible Series) (The Baby Bible Series) showed up at just the right time! My sister gave the book to me several days before Christmas and the little tike immediately asked me to read it to him.

Here's the blurb: ***** Introduce your little one to the Christmas story! Combine your favourite Bible stories with actions and hand motions, and your baby begins to learn the story of Christmas! Each fun-filled passage includes: Bright, colorful pictures Simple prayers that help children talk to their heavenly Father Suggested actions and sounds that bring the stories to life *****

The Christmas story begins with "Mary's Secret" with a picture of the angel Gabriel (minus his wings) talking to an ecstatic Mary. I really like the simple sentence structure e.g. "The angel told Mary a special secret. Mary will have a baby. The baby will be God's son, Jesus. Mary was glad to be a mommy to Jesus." as my son could follow and understand the storyline without difficulty.

Since it's a "Baby Bible", instructions for hand actions accompany each line e.g. the gesture of "Shh!", "Pretend to rock a baby" and "Smile a big smile" for the Mary becoming a mommy part. I didn't use any hand gestures because I was a) too tired! and b) reading to a hyper-active preschooler who I wanted to calm down. Gestures would just get him going again, if you know what I mean.

Each "chapter" includes the reference to the respective passages in the Bible, which are useful for adults who might want to read about the Christmas story in the Bible themselves. Robin Currie and Constanza Basaluzzo did a good job re-telling the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus for little children because my little boy was driven to the "adventure" behind the birth of Jesus e.g. A Long Trip, No Room! Run! Where is the King?

The accompanying illustrations could be a bit more vivid since children these days are so Disney- and Nickelodeon-oriented despite EVERY parent's (especially me!) arduous attempts to reduce its influences. Then again, maybe the artist is doing a good thing introducing simple art forms instead of following the crowd of super-colourful illustrations?

Also, I note that the illustrator went for the Renaissance image of angels looking like ordinary people on earth - I personally prefer the Medieval image of angels with their halos and their wings. ;-) In any case, I really appreciate The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook (The Baby Bible Series) especially the last chapter, which bridges the past experience of the first Christian family in Nazareth with the reader's present, own individual situation i.e. Our Christmas.

A typical family Christmas is shown and my little boy recognized it instantly - grandparents sitting cosily, kids checking out presents under the Christmas tree and my favourite, a father and a daughter singing carols from a songbook.

I also love the last page, which had one of my favourite pictures from the Bible: Jesus surrounded by little children and that famous line of "Let the little children come to me..." although I feel that the writer could have gone for a simpler version kids could understand.

A big thank you to the illustrator for a brown-skinned family - most of my children's books are almost all white-skinned, blonde and blue-eyed! For a first book in its series, I think that the writer and the illustrator did a good job and I look forward to the other books in the series.

I certainly hope that the images would include more diversity especially as more and more Christians around the world are less and less Caucasian and more black, Hispanic and Asian.

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