Parents who want to celebrate poetry and the true meaning of Christmas will enjoy sharing Kennedy's The Beasts of Bethlehem with their children. In nineteen verses, this leading American poet, sees the first Christmas through the eyes of the manger animals. Ranging from the small snail who carries his own inn to the cow who warms the stall with her "clover breath," the creatures express themselves with nineteen different moods, view points, and philosophies. Each poem is short, but long on beauty and perfect for family discussion.
On Christmas Eve, 19 animals gather in the manger; witnesses to the Christmas miracle, they respond to it in original voices. Kennedy captures each distinct voice in a powerful poem, while McCurdy renders each animal in scratchboard and color pencil. Together poem and picture create a meaningful Christmas vignette. "Cow" opens the book--"He came to conquer death / And yet His hands are small. / To warm Him in his stall, / I breathe my clover breath." At first glance, McCurdy's cow appears to be eating hay, but on second glance we know that "this" is manger hay, not to be touched. Although baby Jesus is not visible in the illustrations, he is definitely present. Some animals, like the cow, bring him a gift. Others, like the earthworm, continue on their way, unaffected. From cat and mouse to bat and mosquito, the careful pacing, combined with outstanding verse and visuals, results in a truly stunning interpretation of the Christmas story.