Wednesday, December 06, 2006

review: Little One, We Knew You'd Come

Little One, We Knew You'd Come by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
Illustrated by Jackie Morris. Little, Brown, 2006 (978-0-316-52391-2)

Two distinct styles in children's books meet in this unusual nativity book, a pairing I didn't find completely sucessful. The text, sometimes rhyming, sometimes just consciously poetic, belongs to the distinctly modern school of an adoring parental ode: "By silver stars and golden moon, at break of dawn you came. Kiss your nose, those tiny toes. On the day that you were born." Nothing specifically links it with Jesus' birth; it could be any parents rejoicing in any child. At first glance the illustrations could not seem to be more different: dark, dramatic paintings, embellished with motiffs from nature and highlights of shimmering gold, that belong to a much older tradition. Closer inspection shows the artist has eschewed some traditions: the babe sleeping in his mother's arms is realistically drawn and could be any beautiful sleeping baby, if it weren't for the watchful animals worshiping nearby. The olive-skinned, dark-haired Mary is exquisite, with precisely the worn grace of a new mother; all of the figures shown, including a trio of angels playing ancient instruments, convey strength as well as tenderness. They seem to deserve something deeper than the familiar and somewhat confused text, "Kiss and cuddle and love the baby. Scoop that baby up, And softly sing a lullaby, On the day that you were born." (3 & up)