The First Christmas Night
An Angel Came to Nazareth
Pictures by Maggie Kneen
Chronicle Books, 2010, 2004
From the back of the book, “As the First Christmas draws near, four travelers must make their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. An angel asks four animals to choose which traveler they would like to carry. And only one will choose to carry the greatest of them all.
“Through its simple rhymes and lavish illustrations, this book conveys the very special spirit of the season.”
This is, indeed, a beautiful book. The copy I read was miniaturized into a board book, but there was so much detail, gold stamping and embossing on each page, I feel sure it was originally published as a regular sized picture book. Reading a book this sumptuous loses a lot of impact as a tinier version.
The rhyme is thoughtful and has an easy cadence, one that would be easy to memorize, if one had a mind to. But it’s difficult to read the words when the you’re so busy looking at the illustrations.
Rating 4 out of 5 paws – lovely rhyme, gorgeous book!
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009
From the dust jacket, “It is the night before Christmas and Splat wonders if he’s been a good enough cat this year to deserve a really big present. Just to make sure, he offers some last-minute help to his mom and, in typical Splat fashion, he messes up completely! That night Splat stays awake hoping to see Santa Claus. But when Splat misses him, he’s sure his Christmas is ruined—along with his hopes for a really big Christmas present….”
I fell in love with Splat when I read (and reviewed) his Halloween book, Scaredy-Cat Splat. His body is so fat and square and his legs so skinny and his face is squeezably adorable. In this outing Splat is desperate to make sure he has enough good deeds under his belt so Santa will bring him a present. I also met Splat’s little sister who, like all little sisters, is obnoxious and sweet at the same time. My favorite part of the book was where Splat decorated the Christmas tree – so funny!! And, of course, Santa being the benevolent being he is, brings Splat a present anyway!
Rating 4 out of 5 paws – a wonderfully written and illustrated book filled with lighthearted holiday fun!
Illustrated by Olga & Aleksey Ivanov
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2013
From the back of the book: “Sashay, plié, Nutcracker Ballet! Mia the ballerina kitten stars in the whimsical retelling of the dance classic.”
For the ballet lover in your family, this cute book is for them! Mia receives a nutcracker as a present from her grandpa and is disappointed with it – that is, until Grandpa tells her the story of the Nutcracker Ballet. Mia’s imagination runs wild and she dreams she is Clara, her ballerina sister is the Sugar Plum Fairy and her friends play all the other parts.
This book is adorably illustrated with a clever retelling of the classic story. My only issue with it was seeing Clara’s sister with such skinny legs. I prefer my girl-kitties to be a bit on the fluffy side.
Rating 3 out of 5 paws – a very cute book, easy to understand and enjoy, a perfect book to read before going to your local holiday play of The Nutcracker.
Pictures by Feridun Oral
Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., 2011, 2014
From the dust jacket, “Long ago a special child was born, and animals everywhere heard in his coos a song of blessing and good will for all the creatures of the earth. But now the birds wonder why no one sings the song anymore. The old owl tells them, “People don’t listen. Some think the message is for others and not for them.”
The other birds are determined to bring the message to those they know will listen and understand – the children. And so they fly far and wide each singing the song of joy and peace, passing it on from bird to bird, and from child to child everywhere.”
In this lovely Christmas book, the soft illustrations and quiet text help to remind the reader to pray for the peace of the world. And while the Nativity is lovingly pictured, the Christ Child is mentioned as “Long ago in a simple stable, a child was born.” He is not portrayed as the long-awaited Messiah or the Son of God but as a child who came to bring a blessing to the world. This small detail means the book, and therefore its message is available to anyone of almost any faith because most faiths believe in a single God Who sent a messenger to earth to remind His children of His love for them.
For the kittens (and cats) who love birds, this book is for them – perfect for nap- or bedtime reading to ease the sleeper into peaceful dreams.
Rating 4 out of 5 books for a decidedly non-religious faith-based book.
Illustrated by William Low
Feiwel and Friends, 2016
From the dust jacket, “See this small gray donkey, this long dusty road. See this man, Joseph, this woman, Mary. Feel the frost on this clear Bethlehem night.
“Here is the Nativity story brought to life for family time or bedtime. Readers of all ages will embrace this luminous celebration of the miracle of Christmas.”
This is a beautifully quiet book, hitting the high points of the Christmas story – Mary & Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, finding the overcrowded inn, then the stable and the worship of the wise men, shepherds and animals. It’s a good book to read to help kittens wind down after a raucous day opening presents and playing. The lush paintings and few words will gently remind them of why we celebrate Christmas.
Rating 4 out of 5 paws – a beautiful edition to any home library.