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Mary's Song


On that first Christmas night, the earth bursts with praise at the Savior's birth. Donkeys bray, sheep bleat, horses neigh, and shepherds come from nearby fields -- but Mary simply wants to be alone with her sweet babe.

When quiet finally falls, Mary cradles her son and sings her mother-song, leaving readers dreaming of that silent night so long ago.

Mary's Song, with its ...

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On that first Christmas night, the earth bursts with praise at the Savior's birth. Donkeys bray, sheep bleat, horses neigh, and shepherds come from nearby fields -- but Mary simply wants to be alone with her sweet babe.

When quiet finally falls, Mary cradles her son and sings her mother-song, leaving readers dreaming of that silent night so long ago.

Mary's Song, with its melodic language and rich illustrations, is a lovely reminder of the meaning of Christmas and a welcome pause in the midst of a bustling world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hopkins and Alcorn, the team behind America at War and other titles, present a tender exploration of Mary’s feelings for her infant son, of her natural desire to have quiet intimacy with him, and of her hopes for his future (“I rock back and forth,/ forth and back,/ softly humming my mother-song./ I wonder what will become of him,/ my sweet innocent babe”). Alcorn’s sweet, sketchlike mixed-media illustrations depict the Nativity story on an ivory background and are enhanced by golden highlights, soft lines, and gentle shading to create images of calm. Hopkins’s words evoke a wistful acknowledgment of all parents’ hopes for their infants. Ages 5–8. (June)
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
In free verse as soft as a lullaby, Lee Bennett Hopkins limns the Nativity story from Jesus's mother's point of view. Mary yearns for time alone with her newborn, but murmuring shepherds, bleating sheep, braying donkeys, lowing cattle and squeaking mice keep making a gladsome noise. Finally, the barn empties and she can hum her "mother-song" and rock her babe to sleep. Stephen Alcorn's mixed-media illustrations are a swirl of gentle pastels, as light as a halo, and reflect the quiet tone of the lyrical text. This homage to the spirit of Christmas is perfect for a family read-aloud. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
In a lyrical text, Mary recounts the events surrounding the birth of her child, Jesus. She expresses her desire to have quiet time with him. Beginning with the visit from the angel Gabriel, she proceeds to talk about the quiet trip to Bethlehem, and the peaceful birth of the child. After his birth, the stable begins to fill with noise. The shepherds arrive, and even the animals of the stable (including the mouse) acknowledge the babe's arrival. Mary hears a whisper from a spider spinning a web. When she finally is left alone, she sings to her baby and wonders, like all mothers, what his life will be like. Hopkins captures the feelings of a new mother who longs to have her newborn all to herself. It is difficult to determine the audience. The poetic language and the theme of the book seem to be written for an older audience. Sunday schools might find it appropriate for family or mixed-age programs. Alcorn employs warm pastel tones in swirls and crosshatching to represent the crowds, noise, and solitude depicted in the text. There are nods to Renaissance artists in some of the illustrations of the Madonna and Child. This actually leads to some inconsistencies of the depiction of the baby who at times resembles a newborn and on other pages looks more like a toddler. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up—Hopkins focuses on Mary's experience of the Nativity in this reverent but potentially confusing version of the oft-told tale. Despite the grandiose pronouncements of the angel Gabriel and the proclamations of the heavenly hosts, Mary wants nothing more than to be alone with her newborn. Once the shepherds and animals are gone, she is granted the peace and quiet she seeks and is able to reflect on the birth of her son and what will become of him. Alcorn's sweeping, impressionistic pastel and crayon illustrations use full spreads and overlapping imagery to convey the crowds converging on the new family and the golden love of this special mother holding her baby. The words "Awe," "Wonder," and "Joy" suddenly appear before the final bland image of Madonna and child and Mary's final statement…"Today-birth of him. My baby boy." This rather sophisticated ode to a mother's love will hold little appeal for young audiences.—Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Hopkins, the noted poet and anthologizer of children's poetry, offers an original free-verse poem, a Christmas Eve musing about her newborn son in Mary's first-person voice. Mary looks back at the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel told her of her forthcoming child, and at her journey on the donkey into Bethlehem. The noise and hubbub from visitors began with the shepherds and continued with the animals in the stable, leaving Mary longing for quiet time with her baby. She rocks the child, hums a special song and wonders what will become of him. Striking illustrations in mixed media on ivory backgrounds show the lines of oil pastels and pencils, with watercolor shading. The overall effect is muted, ethereal and filled with golden light that suggests the mysterious power of the event. The book's huge trim size and use of double-page spreads allow the art to shine, and the generous size will ensure that even larger groups will be able to see. Though both the text and illustrations are notable, the mother's perspective may be of more interest to older children and adults than to the traditional picture-book audience. A lyrical, unusual viewpoint for the Nativity story, seamlessly matched with gorgeous illustrations that are unlike other interpretations of the Christ Child's birth. (Picture book/religion. 5 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802853974
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 6/20/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,377,992
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 12.00 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lee Bennett Hopkins has written numerous children's and young adult books, including Been to Yesterdays: Poems of a Life (Boyds Mills Press), winner of the Christopher Award, and City I Love (Abrams). Lee is also recipient of the NCTE Excellence in Poetry for Children Award. He lives in Florida. Visit his website:

Stephen Alcorn is the illustrator of over twenty books, including The Owl (Kipling Press), Rembrandt's Beret (William Morrow), and I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin). Stephen lives in New York, and is a professor of visual arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit his website:

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  • Posted August 9, 2012

    MARY'S SONG, written by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by S

    MARY'S SONG, written by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, is not just a children’s book, nor is it simply “another” nativity story. It is a work of art told from the perspective of a young mother.

    It begins, “It wasn’t the angel Gabriel.” What wasn’t? The next line (“His voice was so quiet-soft…”) gives readers a bit of a clue. From Hopkins’s inspired viewpoint, the Annunciation, journey to Bethlehem, and birth of Jesus are quiet. But then, visitors arrive and animals get noisy and all Mary wants is to be alone with her child.

    Finally…”Quiet.” And in that quiet, a mother rocks her newborn, sings to him, wonders what will happen as he grows up. Mary feels and shows that overwhelming, unconditional love we give our children. The ending is especially precious; all parents will recognize the truth and emotion reflected on that last page.

    It’s not only Hopkins’s text that will captivate your heart. Alcorn’s illustrations look like they belong in a museum. He has captured tender, innocent mother-child moments with softness and grace, using a unique combination of colored pencil, pastel, and watercolor.

    Looking for a Christmas gift that will be treasured by both children and adults? This is it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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