We Three Kings
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007
As Sarah wrote last week, Epiphany is the season between Christmas and Lent in which Christians through the ages have traditionally pondered Christ’s identity and mission. So, while I did intend to review this particular book two weeks ago (oops), I gave myself permission to go ahead and review it today because because Epiphany does officially last for another entire month!
So as I was saying… Epiphany is a season in which we are invited to think deeply about Jesus’ identity and mission. The story of the wise men is one of the traditional texts used as a launching pad for those themes. And no wonder! From the wise men, who were certainly Gentiles and probably Arabs, we learn that the good news is for all people everywhere. From the gifts that they offered to the Christ child, we catch a glimpse of who Jesus is and what the ultimate purpose of the Incarnation is.
We Three Kings is the first true Epiphany book that we’ve shared here on the blog, and let me just say how happy I was to find one that I really like! I am rather particular about not wanting authors to add non-Biblical details when they write about Biblical stories, and oh boy, books about Epiphany are often driven by such details. You can imagine my delight when I came across Gennady Spirin’s take on the classic Epiphany carol. It combines beautiful illustrations with familiar text that actually does a pretty good job of explaining, but not going beyond, the account of the wise men from Matthew 2. The artwork is perfect for the carol’s text, and I love how the verses explain the meaning of the wise men’s gifts (gold points to Christ’s kingship, frankincense to his deity, and myrrh to his coming sacrificial death). The last verse, displayed on the final pages of the book, is a fantastic bridge between Christmas and Easter. There is much here to be pondered, discussed, and just plain enjoyed.
Once upon a time I didn’t like books based on hymn lyrics, but after finding several outstanding examples of them I now deeply appreciate them. They’re fun to sing together, they give the artwork a chance to really shine, and often there is a richness of language and message that’s absent in other author-created books. I love that this one includes the refrain after every verse instead of just once; we all know that little kids love repetition and I found that the chorus pages were my daughter’s favorites. Yes, the angel illustrations (as usual) drive me batty, but you can’t have it all, right? If you’re weary of Epiphany tales that focus too much on stars or camels, I encourage you to check out We Three Kings.