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Voices of Christmas
illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Zonderkidz, 2009
ISBN978-0310711926

About the Book

Gabriel “paced the halls of heaven” as he memorized God’s message to Mary. He wondered what she would say.

The Christmas story unfolds, as never before, through the voices of those who witnessed the Messiah’s birth. Listen to Joseph’s struggle. Rejoice with Elizabeth and Zachariah. Worship with the magi. Hear the fear in Herod’s voice. Receive the blessing of Simeon and Anna.

And, like the shepherds, shout for joy!

From the Book

Gabriel

Hush! The hour is late.
Nazareth lies sleeping,
and I wait for my Lord's signal
to once again go
to earth below.
When last I went, my words
were for Zachariah.
Now, I pace the halls of heaven
memorizing a message
for Mary.(Every achangel I see
envies me!)
I must get the message right:
The Light of the World
is on his way!
What will Mary say
when I tell her?

from Voices of Christmas
© 2009 by Nikki Grimes

Reviews

Grimes brings her lyrical style—and a compassionate, human-centered tone—to the Nativity story. Each double-page spread comprises three parts: a character’s portrait is vividly rendered; a biblical passage establishes the current segment of the overarching narrative; and a poem offers readers entrance to the story through the eyes of the spotlighted character, from Gabriel to Mary to Herod to the innkeeper. The monologues are sparely poetic, emphasizing the humanity of each iconic figure: after being told that she will deliver the child of God, Mary is “rooted to this dirt floor, / dizzy with wonder, / pinching my wrist, / waiting to wake / from this dream.” The text is unabashedly spiritual; the book design is sumptuous, with its gold typeface and endpapers; the paintings are dramatically composed, alternately dark and luminous (or sometimes both). Together, they make a familiar story seem newly resonant. A CD with original music and the author’s reading is included.—Claire E. Gross, The Horn Book

Grimes uses her talent as a poet to retell the Nativity story from several different viewpoints, each one a distinct voice with its own style. Fourteen poems in free verse convey the story, from the announcement of the impending birth by the angel Gabriel to the final poem directed to readers. The attractive design includes a double-page spread for each character, with a short Bible verse and the poem set in gold type against dark backgrounds and the illustration of the character attractively integrated into the spread. Each character is a real person, with his or her own concerns or fears, and the whole of the Nativity story is conveyed through the sum of their individual stories. Velasquez's striking, dramatic illustrations add to the personality of the characters, who are clearly of Middle Eastern ethnicity.—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Grimes presents 14 poems, each preceded by a Bible verse, telling the story of the Nativity through the voices of Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, the innkeeper, Herod, and so on. The poems, mostly unrhymed free verse, use simple language and a rolling rhythm that makes them a pleasure to read aloud. Gaspar, one of the Wise Men, begins his verse with “All those years of poring over/charts and scrolls on astronomy,/then suddenly, it was as if/the Morning Star/leapt from the page/and rose into the sky.” The realistic paintings, rendered in muted nighttime shades of blue, gray, brown, and yellow, depict intense people in the midst of a momentous event, their glowing faces bowed in reverence or raised to the heavens. This lovely and heartfelt book adds a deeper perspective to the oft-told story and will enhance most holiday collections.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library, School Library Journal

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