The Colt and the King
Marni McGee & John Winch
Holiday House, 2002
A few days ago a friend pointed out to me that the story of the triumphal procession is not included in either the Big Picture Story Bible or the Jesus Storybook Bible. I was surprised when she told me – perhaps simply because Palm Sunday is this weekend and its proximity makes it feel particularly important – and left the conversation wondering what is out there in children’s literature that tells the story well. Happily, I found one to share with you all just in time for the beginning of this year’s Holy Week!
Marni McGee (of The Noisy Farm fame) and illustrator John Winch have together created The Colt and the King, a creative retelling of the triumphal entry that is just right for preschoolers and early elementary kids. It’s out of print, but my own library had it on its shelves and used copies seem affordable and easy to find. The donkey is the narrator, and through the book’s pages he reminisces about the day he was drafted into the King’s service and carried him into Jerusalem alongside an exuberant crowd. The text is clear yet gently poetic, the illustrations are captivating, and the author’s note that precedes the title page provides additional context and explanation.
Now, I have to admit that normally I’m not a fan of Bible retellings that focus on something other than what is the clear biblical theme. Most frequently I see this in the form of telling the Christmas story from the perspective of the animals, though I can think of other examples as well. It’s just not my cup of tea. However… I really like this book. For one thing, I love the way that McGee foreshadows both Good Friday and also the Second Coming as the story progresses. Moreover, the colt’s encounter with Jesus is somehow entirely relatable, especially for a young child. Jesus’ presence calms the animal as the Good Shepherd calms his sheep, and the colt is in turn pleased with the role he gets to play on that special day. He feels anxious at what he senses is soon to come for Jesus (a feeling that I’m sure many young children share as the day we remember the crucifixion draws near). And after the procession ends, the donkey longs for the day when he will once again see Jesus and be at home with him. Each of these reflections strike me as particularly relevant for children and taken together they’re a wonderful way to begin Holy Week.
Sarah and I have long had trouble finding children’s books for Holy Week and Easter that we are truly excited about, so I’m particularly pleased to be able to recommend this one to you. The Colt and the King is a lovely book that makes the Palm Sunday story come alive and I hope that you’ll consider tracking it down to share with the young ones in your life.