Publishers Weekly - Publishers WeeklyThough John Speirs's (The Little Boy's Christmas Gift) luxurious, gilt-accented paintings are an art aficionado's dream, readers will probably puzzle over the tangled text, which posits a parallel between the life of Jesus and that of a donkey. On the night that Jesus is born, a donkey outside the stable gives birth, to an animal that the gathered shepherds name Bethlehem. Although the Holy Family and Bethlehem leave the stable together, their paths soon diverge. Bethlehem is stolen by vagabonds, then sold in turn to merchants, to a farmer and finally to a group of drovers. Jesus and Bethlehem cross paths once again in Jerusalem as they both approach the end of their time on earth. Focusing on the religiously symbolic beast of burden, Gill Speirs opens the door to an inventive interpretation of Scripture. However, her technique of sometimes employing straightforward storytelling and other times adopting a style of cumulative verse proves cumbersome and confusing. Readers are left to assume much here, as Jesus is not mentioned in the bulk of the text, though he appears in the background of the artwork (preaching, praying, talking with children, celebrating the wedding at Cana). Throughout, the elegant compositions consistently delight, depicting biblical events in a Netherlandish style inspired chiefly by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. For those who wish to know more about the art, a final spread contains a series of detailed illustration references and a particularly informative artist's note. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Donkey and the Golden Lightby John Speirs, Gill Speirs, Gil Speirs
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Children's LiteratureGolden light fills the donkey's story from cover and end-papers throughout. Born in a stable on the same night as a well-known precious babe, Bethlehem goes along with his mother as she carries the other mother and child away to safety in Egypt. As he is stolen, traded away, sold from hand to hand through the seasons and years, the donkey keeps struggling "to understand the magnificent golden light that had, on his first night, promised peace, good will, and a new beginning for all." Now grown old, Bethlehem wonders about the quiet, gentle man he has carried into Jerusalem to cheers and "Hosanna!" After earth-shattering moments, Bethlehem finds his answers in the golden light and open arms of that long-ago new-born child now become the man of the Resurrection. The reverential quality of the story is enhanced by the design: an illuminated capital on the text page and a gold-bordered painting opposite. These illustrations have a familiar look because they have been "inspired," according to a lengthy and informative "Artist's Note," by the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. A fully referenced list of these, with bits of the paintings, is given at the book's end. These are scenes full of the life of the European 16th century as we follow the donkey and his search. A brilliant and imaginative way to tell an inspirational story. 2004, Harry N Abrams, Ages 5 up.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 2-4-A religious allegory about a donkey, born in a Bethlehem stable on a very special night, that survives a long, hardworking life only to carry, as a grown man, the baby also born that night in the selfsame stable, into Jerusalem to hosannas and his crucifixion. The donkey-named Bethlehem-always remembers the golden light in that long-ago stable and struggles to understand its meaning. Bethlehem's story is accompanied by John Speirs's rich tapestry of luminous, detailed art elegantly decorated with gold. Inspired by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, these sumptuous paintings are explained in the illustration references and in the artist's note. A visual feast, this faith-based work is as jewel-like as an illustrated manuscript, and it will give children a brief vision of the message of Jesus's life, and a sense of the continual search for the depths of its meaning.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsA donkey born in the stable on the same night as Jesus is the focus of this sumptuously illustrated story that follows the beast of burden throughout his life. The donkey, named Bethlehem, is repeatedly sold or traded, and at each new location, he remembers all his past owners and the symbolic golden light present at his birth, recounted in the text in cumulative fashion with a repeating refrain. Each illustration of the donkey in a new place also depicts one of the main stories from the life of Jesus, often barely visible in the background, until the donkey carries Jesus into Jerusalem and finds the golden light again as his own life is ending when he sees Jesus outside the tomb. The intricately detailed full-page illustrations, bordered in gold, are complemented by smaller illustrations on the text pages in the style of illuminated manuscripts. In an artist's note and list of illustration references, Speirs explains the influence of Bruegel on his paintings and why he chose to use the dress and settings of the Renaissance. Some will find this tale of a thinking donkey maudlin; others will find it illuminating. (Nonfiction. 6-10)
- Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 10.37(w) x 11.37(h) x 0.37(d)
- Age Range:
- 1 - 8 Years
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