A Christmas Journey by Brian Wildsmith

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A Christmas Journey by Brian Wildsmith
Buy A Christmas Journey from Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Christmas Journey from Amazon.com

Genre: For Sharing
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A gentle twist on the Nativity story sees Mary and Joseph's cat and dog making the journey to Bethlehem. It's a nice idea, but doesn't always hit the mark.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 32 Date: September 2010
Publisher: OUP Oxford
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0192789808

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Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she'll give birth to Jesus. So far so good for the Nativity story. Skip ahead to Mary and Joseph leaving for Bethlehem, and that's where we part ways with them for a while. Instead, we travel with their cat and dog, who are left behind but decide to follow. They meet up with the other animals and people from the Nativity story on their way, until finally they come to the manger in Bethlehem.

It's a gentle and respectful twist on the story of Jesus' birth. It brings a new dimension to the familiar tale, potentially increasing young readers' awareness of all aspects of it, whilst also keeping it fresh and interesting. That sort of approach is usually greatly appreciated here at Bookbag, but it doesn't always hit the mark in A Christmas Journey. I kept wondering who the audience would be. Deeply religious people and traditionalists won't want any changes at all. People wanting an alternative Christmas story will find it too similar to the story they already know, and will want to seek out true alternatives. The cat and dog feel a little tacked on - it's an interesting premise, but it never quite clicks.

Brian Wildsmith's illustrations aren't quite up to their usual standard either. We usually rave about the pictures in his books, but they feel flat here. They lack the usual beauty and charm. The printing is slightly less than perfect, which doesn't seem to help matters. You have to look carefully to spot it (such as if you're trying to pinpoint what doesn't feel quite right for the purposes of a review!) but it's there. Some of the pages seem as if they've been scanned and printed, losing some of the texture and vibrancy in the process. Having previously been published as The Road To Bethlehem, I wonder whether the repackaging process has lost some of the quality from the original.

If the twist of the story worked a bit better, the issues with the illustrations would help paper over the cracks a bit more. If the illustrations were up to the usual high standard, it would improve one's view of the story. It feels unfairly critical to pick quite so many holes in A Christmas Journey - it's not a bad book by any means - but it never quite sits comfortably enough to truly enjoy.

My thanks to the publisher for sending it to Bookbag.

For a traditional take on the Nativity, look no further than The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski. For other Christmas tales, you'll love The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (especially the CD read by Liam Neeson), The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora and Clement Clarke Moore, The Happiest Man in the World or the Mouse Who Made Christmas by Mij Kelly and Louise Nisbet, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss and others from our Top Ten Books With A Christmas Theme. Cub's First Winter by Rebecca Elliott is a beautifully wintry book to delight young book fans.

Buy A Christmas Journey by Brian Wildsmith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Christmas Journey by Brian Wildsmith at Amazon.


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