Voices of Christmas

Voices of Christmas
Nikki Grimes & Eric Velasquez
Zonderkidz, 2009

Sarah and I have been reviewing theological kidlit for nearly 1 1/2 years now, and we’ve gotten to the point where we have to search a bit harder to find new titles to share with you all.  That is, except for during this time of year!  But while there may be no shortage of children’s Christmas books, it can be tricky to uncover the truly excellent ones. Voices of Christmas is, in my opinion, one worth owning.

There are only a handful of authors who have more than one book we’ve reviewed, and included in that list is today’s author, Nikki Grimes.  I love the way she writes: her words are carefully chosen, truthful, and artful.  As we pointed out in our reviews of When Daddy Prays and At Jerusalem’s Gate, she captures reality beautifully without sugar-coating or sentimentalizing it.  Her contribution to Christmas kidlit is no different.

Voices of Christmas is unique among Christmas books in several ways.  First, it’s more of a series of connected episodes than a seamless narrative.  Every spread features a different character from the early chapters of Matthew and Luke speaking in first person about the events that are transpiring.  A corresponding line from Scripture runs across the top of the page.  The first person perspective is one of my favorite things about the book, actually, because of the way it draws me in and invites me to wonder what it really would have been like to be someone who was there when Christ was born.

This book is also unique in that it includes more characters than the typical Nativity retelling.  The central characters are there, of course, but so are Gabriel, Elizabeth and Zechariah, a neighbor, the innkeeper, Anna, Simeon, and Herod.  Including more characters in the book somehow makes it seem more real than a book that just zooms in on the manger scene and then backs away just as quickly.  Matthew and Luke’s accounts give us more context than that, and I appreciate Grimes’ decision to do the same.

Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention Eric Velasquez’s outstanding illustrations.  His paintings of the biblical characters allow the complexities of their emotions come through and make them seem real (as they are).

If your family is looking for a unique Advent devotional this year, Voices of Christmas might be just the book to consider.  There are 15 episodes, so if you read one every 2-3 days starting the first Sunday of Advent you’d finish right in time for Christmas.  It’s not technically a devotional, but I think it would shine if used in that way.

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