Review of “The First Christmas”

Advent is almost here, and I’m preparing by getting our 2019 Christmas books wrapped and organized for our book-a-day Christmas countdown! This year, one of the new books we’ll be unwrapping is Thomas William’s recently published book The First Christmas. Williams’ charming poem is accompanied by vibrant, unique illustrations by Frank Fraser. Together, poem and illustrations make this a perfect addition to any Catholic family’s Christmas collection!

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Illustrations that tell a story

My children were captivated by the illustrator’s fascinating juxtaposition of different styles to emphasize the story. On the one hand, there are the exaggerated, almost cartoonlike, depictions of the bored townsfolk and wealthy men who don’t notice, or don’t care, that the Messiah is born. On the other, there are the serenely beautiful and luminous pictures of the Holy Family, angels, shepherds, kings, and little children who recognize their Savior. This contrast in artistic style really forces the reader to reflect on Jesus being born into a world which largely didn’t recognize Him.

Biblical References

The Theology major in me loved the Biblical references interwoven into the poem. Williams explains how the coming of the Messiah is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah and Hosea. There are also New Testament quotes and paraphrasing from Luke.

Little Children Leading the Way

Throughout the book, if you look closely you’ll notice that it is the children who recognize and welcome Jesus most readily. Young readers will love imagining themselves as the girl who cheerfully waved to Mary as she traveled to Bethlehem, or the shepherd boy who smiles at the angel as the older shepherds stare in fear and awe. The First Christmas really does a stellar job trying to draw young readers into the story of Jesus’ coming.

A Wonderful Explanation of the True Meaning of Christmas

Overall, this is a beautiful book that does a noteworthy job of explaining the true meaning of Christmas. With its lyrical verses, this poem is a great alternative Christmas poem to replace or complement the secular poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. With its focus on the true Christmas story, this picture book is really a great gift or addition to any Christmas collection.

Want to get a glimpse inside the book? Check out this great preview of The First Christmas from the publisher, Sophia Institute Press!

Looking for more picture books about Advent and Christmas? Check out my Christmas book list!

I received a copy of “The First Christmas” from Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Good Poetry for Little Catholic Kids 

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Children need to hear poetry and rhymes from a very young age in order to learn the rhythm and flow of the English language. Additionally, exposure to poetry from a young age can help foster a lifelong appreciation for this form of literature.

I like to start my toddlers off with a charmingly illustrated book of nursery rhymes such asNursery Rhyme Treasury or Ring O’ Roses: Nursery Rhymes, Action Rhymes, and Lullabies, both illustrated by Priscilla Lamont.

When they are a bit older, 2 or 3, they love Shirley Hughes’ Out and About: A First Book of Poems, which has poems organized by season. Of course, you also get the benefit of Hughes’ distinctive, detailed illustrations which accompany each poem. Her other poetry collection, Rhymes for Annie Rose is fun for fans of Alfie and Annie Rose, and celebrates sibling play and mundane family life.

Our four year old loves Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses. These poems were intended for children, written with simple themes and commonplace similes that children will readily grasp, but many are still mini masterpieces. They make great first exercises in memorization.

<Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls is a wealth of poems by a large variety of authors to read aloud, handily organized by subject.

Pied Beauty: A Children’s Book attempts with some success to make a wonderful poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins accessible to young children. Breaking the poem down line by line, this book offers imagery and word definitions to help your children understand.

Check out more of my book lists for Little Catholic Kids!