Book Review: One Wintry Night

Rating: ★★★★★

There are a many well-written, poorly illustrated Bible storybooks, and even more well-illustrated versions which drift from the original meaning of the biblical text.  Ruth Bell Graham‘s Christmas Bible storybook, illustrated by award-winning artist Richard Jesse Watson, is visually one of the best Bible picture books I have seen, while remaining close to the original text of the Bible.

The book opens with a boy hurting his ankle during a blizzard in the mountains, near a mountain home that his grandfather helped build.  He respectfully knocks on the door and the woman who lives there puts him up until the storm abates.  While he enjoys the warm security of the home, she tells him Bible stories beginning with the Creation and ending with Jesus’ resurrection.  This meta-plot of an adult caretaker telling a Bible story to an eager young listener is quite overused in Christian literature, but in this case we can overlook it because the stories the old lady tells are so good.  Graham’s own grandmotherly voice comes through clearly, and you can imagine her practicing these stories on her grandchildren.  The stories progress from the Old Testament into the New, building to a climax with Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, and a clear presentation of the Christian Gospel, the “real meaning of Christmas.”  Watson’s illustrations are breathtaking, full of vigor and splendor, with an unusual originality and excellence of artwork that is still true to the original spirit of the stories.

Not everyone will love Graham’s and Watson’s interpretations of the Bible stories: in giving them conversational warmth and visual detail each author has added a lot of details that are not in the original Bible.  The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is renamed the Testing Tree.  When Cain kills Abel, Adam and Eve “wept till there were no tears left, and awoke the next day to weep again.”  Noah and his family, on exiting the ark, feel an impulse to “run and jump and turn cartwheels.”  Watson’s glorious scene of Eden gratuitously includes half-inch-tall back views of a naked Adam and Eve, and (strangely enough) the angel which guards the Garden of Eden against their re-entry resembles a female New-Age Native American.  Because of these and other interpretive choices, I recommend that adults read the book ahead of their audience to ensure that they agree with the way the Bible stories are presented.

Even with its minor faults, this book makes an excellent read-aloud for the Christmas season, and a good Christmas gift for most families.

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Publication Information: Graham, Ruth Bell. One Wintry Night. Watson, Richard Jesse (Illustrator). Baker Books. 2007. ISBN: 0801013062.
Categories: 4 Stars, Age 04-08, Classicalhomeschooling.org, Honey For a Child's Heart
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Posted on August 22, 2010


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