The First Christmas

Phillips Brooks and Lewis H. Redner, illus. by Will Moses. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7878-7

Folk artist Moses offers intricate oil paintings to illustrate Brooks’s 1867 poem “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” which Redner set to music a year later. The art depicts the first Christmas, from Mary and Joseph searching for lodging to the Three Wise Men visiting the newborn King. Atmospheric art accented by dabs of gold and centering humans with indefinite features matches the reverence of the text: “How silently, how silently,/ The wondrous gift is given!” Though the cast includes a range of skin tones, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are shown as pale-skinned. This Christmas title, perhaps ideal as a readaloud with a knowledgeable adult, hints at the biblical meaning of Christmas, and is best appreciated by readers already familiar with the song or its theological origins. Back matter includes sheet music for “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” a note about the text, and an author’s note. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)