Certain Poor Shepherds: A Christmas Tale

Certain Poor Shepherds: A Christmas Tale

by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Alfre Woodard
     
 

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"On the first Christmas, so say the Christians, a redeemer was born to save our kind from the consequences of our greed, waste, pride, cruelty, and arrogance. No redeemer appeared for the animals; however, none was needed. The animals were much the same then as they are now, just as God made them, perfect according to his plan..."

So begins this resonant tale by

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Overview

"On the first Christmas, so say the Christians, a redeemer was born to save our kind from the consequences of our greed, waste, pride, cruelty, and arrogance. No redeemer appeared for the animals; however, none was needed. The animals were much the same then as they are now, just as God made them, perfect according to his plan..."

So begins this resonant tale by one of our most gifted storytellers and most perceptive animal watchers, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. When an unusual star appears on the horizon one clear winter night, among those drawn to its bright promise are two shepherds - a dog named Lila and Ima, a goat. Therein lies an adventure, and Thomas's departure from the familiar story treasured by generations. With their flock, the animals journey to Bethlehem and home again, witnesses to a redemption of which they have no need. Yet as they make their way, encountering danger and opportunity, their journey becomes an extraordinary meditation, moving but unsentimental, on the nature of freedom and the state of natural grace in a world ruled by the power - and frailty - of humankind.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Marshall applies her knowledge of the animal world (The Secret Life of Dogs) and her fictional skills (Reindeer Moon) to a rich reimagining of the Nativity story. Her pilgrims are a wise goat named Ima and a huge warrior sheepdog , Lila. They are on the mountain guarding a herd of sheep when the star appears, and they immediately sense divinity in the air. Later, they see a flock of angels invisible to their master. Struck by inspiration, they follow the star to Bethlehem, where Lila witnesses the scene at the manger. Many other animals appear in the narrativecamels, a cheetah, other dogs, a gazellegiving Marshall an opportunity to represent natural creatures interacting and cherishing their freedom, which to animals is a form of grace. After Ima and Lila experience several dangerous adventures, an uplifting ending, in which they are rewarded by an angel whom Ima had saved from an eagle, probably will elicit some happy tears. The deliberately simple but well-honed prose makes this story suitable for family reading, and Marshall's attribution of human thoughts and emotions to her animal characters should delight sentimentalists. But the epilogue, in which Marshall muses that "perhaps our hope of redemption lies in the fact that we are animals, not that we are people,'' will not make this book a favorite of fundamentalist Christians. Simultaneous audio. (Nov.)
Library Journal
"On the first Christmas, so say the Christians, a redeemer was born to save our kind from the consequences of our greed, waste, pride, cruelty, and arrogance. No redeemer appeared for the animals; however, none was needed." So begins Thomas's thoughtful, deeply affecting retelling of the Christmas story from the animals' point of viewan approach that seems so natural, so delightful, one wonders why it hasn't been done before. Here, the "certain poor shepherds" are a dog and a goat who follow a bright, burning star to Bethlehem, encountering angels and human folly along the way. The animals behave with the utmost probityIma the goat helps cure an angel who has fallen sick from eating poisoned berries, for instance, and Lila the dog rescues Ima from the butcher's knife. They return home transfigurednot from their meeting with the baby Jesus, who seems frail and desperately in need of protection, but from within. Every once in a while, a clichd phrase will drop with a clunk, but this is ultimately a touching, simple, and challenging parable about our relation to the natural world from the author of the best-selling The Hidden Life of Dogs. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/96.]Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
From the Publisher
The prose is simple and elegant. Harsh elements are balanced by tenderness and gentle humor, and there is an uplifting ending for the dual protagonists. An affecting, well-spun tale that will especially resonate with animal lovers.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671574383
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
11/01/1996
Edition description:
Abridged, 1 cassette, 1 hr. 30 min.
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.76(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas is the best-selling author of The Hidden Life of Dogs and several other successful works about anthropology and animal behavior. Her book on cat behavior, The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture, was an international bestseller. She lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Jonathan Bartlett earned his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. His work has been featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, among many other venues. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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