cover image Mary's Story

Mary's Story

Sarah Jane Boss. Barefoot Books, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-901223-44-6

Christian children are probably familiar with the story of how the Virgin Mary was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus--but apart from Mary's role as mother, they (and their parents) may know little about her life. In this ambitious picture book, Boss brings Mary into better focus, offering young readers a warm portrait of a holy yet very human woman. From the moment she is visited by the angel Gabriel, Mary follows God's plan with courage, faith and grace, even though she doesn't know how it will affect her family (for example, after the shepherds come to the manger, Mary ""tried to imagine how her baby could really become a savior""). Laudably, Boss introduces information about Mary's birth and early childhood culled not only from the Gospels but from such sources as the Protevangelium of James and from art and folklore. But in her attempt to distill a sweeping time line of cosmic events into a biography accessible to children, the author makes several awkward or simplistic transitions (leading up to the marriage at Cana, she writes, ""Mary and Jesus both liked going to parties""; and ""When Jesus grew up, he lived and worked with his parents. Then Joseph died""). Cann's (The Green Man) vibrant watercolor and graphite paintings offer a distinct sense of time and place, although readers may be distracted by the peculiar-looking halos adorning her figures. Most successfully, though, Cann's compositions evoke religious icons and the hinged, wood-panel altarpieces of late medieval and Renaissance churches. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)