cover image The Light of the World: The Life of Jesus for Children

The Light of the World: The Life of Jesus for Children

Katherine Paterson, Francois Roca, , illus. by François Roca. . Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-545-01172-3

As Newbery Medalist Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia ) distills key events in the life of Jesus, her unfettered prose is sure to prove inviting to young readers. Blending accessible language and memorable, age-appropriate imagery, she skillfully encapsulates familiar Bible passages and parables: “Jesus was hung on a cross on a hill outside the city, between two men who were thieves. His frightened friends had run away. He felt very alone./ When Jesus died, darkness covered the earth. The light of the world had gone out.” Roca's (The Yellow Train ) stylized oil paintings, a series of warm-hued portraits and scenes deceptively spare in their composition, seem to use light as an organizing motif, too. Sun illuminates Jesus as he leads his disciples across tawny desert, and light from an unseen source falls upon the lame man whom the offstage Jesus heals; the palette darkens when Roca shows disbelievers and as the crucifixion nears. The illustrations, unconventionally, preceded Paterson's text, originally appearing in a French children's book and inspiring this book's editor to seek out an American author. The pairing works seamlessly, with both author and artist highlighting elements of the story (the cup of wine, the bread eaten when Jesus “gathered his closest friends to celebrate the feast of Passover”), and illuminating them anew for children and adults alike. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)