SAINT FRANCIS AND THE CHRISTMAS DONKEY

Inspired by the story of St. Francis of Assisi as well as a visit to the frescoes of Giotto, the author combines an original creation tale on the naming of the animals with a retelling of the Christmas story. He begins with a description of the humble patron saint of animals, who called them his brothers, and the birds his sisters, spoke to, understood, and always cared for God’s creatures. Continuing his story, he tells about the day when St. Francis met the donkey who was complaining about his ugly voice. St. Francis tells the donkey a creation story in which the donkey gets long ears, a stubby tail, and an ugly voice for ridiculing other animals as God created them. St. Francis then comforts him, reminding the donkey of the important part he played in carrying Mary and Jesus to Bethlehem. The elegant, flat paintings of St. Francis and the animals convey a sense of 13th-century Italian art. The title page shows a gold triptych with St. Francis, the Nativity, and the donkey. Often the text or illustrations appear with elaborate, decorative borders that call to mind illuminated manuscripts. In keeping with the simple life of the saint, his own pages are filled with natural elements and those borders are simple, growing things. While the illustrations influenced by the past are handsome, the most compelling image is the last blue-and-white double-page spread, which shows St. Francis and the donkey, snow, sky, shadows, stillness, and star. The author provides a detailed afterword about his sources and his subject, and includes an annotated bibliography. Lovely. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-525-46480-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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GINGERBREAD BABY

In a snowbound Swiss village, Matti figures it’s a good day to make a gingerbread man. He and his mother mix a batch of gingerbread and tuck it in the oven, but Matti is too impatient to wait ten minutes without peeking. When he opens the door, out pops a gingerbread baby, taunting the familiar refrain, “Catch me if you can.” The brash imp races all over the village, teasing animals and tweaking the noses of the citizenry, until there is a fair crowd on his heels intent on giving him a drubbing. Always he remains just out of reach as he races over the winterscape, beautifully rendered with elegant countryside and architectural details by Brett. All the while, Matti is busy back home, building a gingerbread house to entice the nervy cookie to safe harbor. It works, too, and Matti is able to spirit the gingerbread baby away from the mob. The mischief-maker may be a brat, but the gingerbread cookie is also the agent of good cheer, and Brett allows that spirit to run free on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23444-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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AN ELF FOR CHRISTMAS

The text in Garland’s book has little merit, and appears mostly as an excuse for the digital artwork. The night before Christmas, Tingle, a diligent elf in Santa’s workshop, falls asleep in the cockpit of a toy plane he has been working on. When the plane is wrapped, so is he, and the package is tucked into Santa’s sleigh and delivered to Joey for Christmas. Tingle gets homesick, flies the plane homeward, runs out of power, and hitches a ride with a polar bear. Garland makes no effort to endow his principals with any personality or presence; the artwork suffers from a grating juxtaposition of hyperrealism and smoky, blurred imagery. The proportions and depths of field are discomfittingly exaggerated, except for a scene in which the northern lights are on display above Santa’s workshop—there the otherworldliness perfectly matches the event. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46212-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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