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Booklist - Ilene Cooper
Books about Saint Francis for kids usually center on his mystical relationship with animals and nature.
This one, however, is about an event in his life that should have equal interest: his creation of the first
Nativity scene. Framed in the fictional tale of a young shepherd named Mario, Strasser’s story begins when the boy helps Francis load his cart of supplies. A friendship forms, and it is a remark by Mario, who wishes he could have seen the night of Jesus’ birth, that gives Francis an idea. While Francis is getting permission from the church, Mario finds the perfect cave in which to enact the holy night. The fictional framework for the story does not mesh as seamlessly as it might with the facts, but the addition of Mario does bring a child’s perspective to the tale. The full-bleed illustrations, whose glow is reminiscent of stained glass, offer a delicate young shepherd and saint, and they capture the wonderment of both a special night and its first recreation. A good choice for Christmas shelves.