Title: The Newborn Child
Author: Jackie Morris
Illustrator: Jackie Morris
Publisher: Otter-Barry Books
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Audience: Ages 5 and up
Summary: The events of Mary’s life, including the Annunciation, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the announcement of the angels, the visit of the shepherds, the visit of the Magi, and Mary’s treasuring of all these events are told in spare, personal, and deeply revealing words. While the text is third person, the insights come from Mary’s own experience of the events that “changed her life forever.”
The illustrations by Jackie Morris were previously used in a similar book titled Little One, We Knew You’d Come by Sally Lloyd-Jones. When that book was no longer in print, Ms. Morris reclaimed the rights and wrote her own text. And so we have The Newborn Child.
Literary elements at work in the story: Words are used sparingly, only a few per page. The deepest insights of this retelling are in the illustrations. The characters are shown with middle-eastern characteristics (no blond, blue-eyed Jesus – or anyone else!) and the settings are shown is small “picture boxes.” Intimate close up views of the characters carry the story, close-ups which add to the intimacy of the text. The watercolor paintings tend toward darker hues, giving the book an overall somber tone. Some illustrations seem drab. Facial expressions add to the serious feel. Even the angels do not smile as they sing, “Glory to God!” The joys of the story’s events are foreclosed by the dismal facial features.
Like all mothers, Mary is portrayed as profoundly in love with her child. However, as she expresses this love she declares (twice), “Mine.” This overly possessive expression seems out of place. When reading to a child, one might choose to skip those phrases.
There is a wealth of choices for picture books about the Nativity, including books that reveal the joy of the events and Mary’s generosity (rather than a possessive attitude). Perhaps other retellings would suit young children better.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? It is evident that the illustrator was intentional about her depictions of first century middle easterners, a refreshing change from previous decades when all biblical characters appeared to be of northern European heritage. Some paintings are more successful than others in maintaining ethnic accuracy while also avoiding “muddiness.”
Theological Conversation Partners:Luke 2:1-21; Matthew 1:18-2:12.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What stories do your parents tell about when you were born? Are they funny? Scary? Exciting?
- What stories do you think Mary will tell of Jesus’ birth? What will she remember most?
- What will Joseph remember?
- What will the shepherds remember?
- What will the angels remember?
- What will the Magi (kings) remember?
- Mary loves Jesus very much. What do you think about when you know someone loves you very much? What does it feel like?
- What does it feel like when you love someone very much?
This review is written by Dr. Jane Rogers Vann, professor emerita of Christian Education at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Currently living in Asheville, NC, Dr. Vann continues to teach courses in education and worship as an adjunct faculty member after her retirement in 2009.
The Newborn Child by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.