written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Michelle Carlos
Beaming Books, October 10, 2023
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Lullaby for the King
About the Book
The caravan traveled through wilderness, uphill and down, for hours that spun into days.
Then at last, glittering diamond-bright, Bethlehem appeared through the haze.
With glittering poetry and stunning watercolor artwork, Lullaby for the King ushers readers into the awe and wonder of the Christmas story. Animals from across the ancient Palestinian landscape lumber, gambol, crawl, fly, and parade toward Bethlehem with gifts worthy of the newborn King. Rare ebony wood, a finely tuned harp, mustard and saffron, a zither, apricot cakes, and other treasures are carried to the manger. The animals bow low and join the music of the angels in a welcoming lullaby.
Awards and Recognition
- Kirkus Reviews starred review
Grimes and Carlos’ take on the birth of Jesus celebrates the majesty and diversity of the natural world. As the story opens, the animals learn that the Holy One has been born, and they begin to make their way to Bethlehem, laden with gifts. Antelope brings an alabaster ﬂask containing myrrh, while Lion brings a bronze bowl. Donkey carries dates and dried apricot cakes, while Crane brings a spoon made from ebony, and Jackal the Clever brings a linen sash and frankincense. Goat’s gift is a harp, while Leopard’s is a crown of electrum. At last, they all arrive in Bethlehem at the stable where Mary and Joseph are waiting with Jesus. All three present as Black; Mary and Joseph have Afro-textured hair, and Mary’s hair is in braids. Nightingale gives the ﬁrst gift to the Holy One: the gift of song, which startles—and delights—the baby. The other animals, inspired, play their own instruments. Grimes’ lush verse is brought to life by Carlos’ vibrant, ornate art, which depicts the fancifully colored animals striking dynamic poses and carrying sumptuous gifts. The angels, depicted as ghostly white ephemeral beings, contrast beautifully with the multihued animal ensemble. Text and visuals strike a wonderful balance between whimsy and solemnity. Backmatter includes an original song with accompanying sheet music. Masterful prose and exquisite images combine for an unforgettable Nativity retelling. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
This book teases the imagination to envision the role of the natural world in the Christmas story. Creatures from near and far gather their special gifts and travel to honor the birth of a sacred child. An enchanting menagerie hears the exciting news and begins the journey to deliver their offerings to celebrate the occasion. Antelopes, jackals, ostriches, and crocodiles are a few of the creatures who figure prominently in bringing gifts to the king. Readers might enjoy trying to predict what gifts each animal will bring, and then revel in the stunning contributions of each: grains of mustard, shofars, and zithers are among the glorious offerings. Readers of all ages will be drawn in by the exotic creatures and vibrant colors that enhance this lovely tale. The illustrations in this beautiful book are sumptuous. While it is certainly a soothing visual treat for bedtime, the story also offers amazing vocabulary-building opportunities for growing readers, with words such as gamboled, electrum, and narcissus. VERDICT Another winner by Grimes that is sure to become a new classic. (Darby Wallace, School Library Journal)
Beginning “one magnificent morning in Israel,/ when the sun warmed the Great Salt Sea,” Grimes imagines in reverent, distinctive verse a lengthy caravan of creatures bearing gifts for the Bethlehem-born babe—“the Holy One.” From Antelope, who carries a “fragile flask of alabaster/ tied round her neck/ and filled with perfume of myrrh,” to Peacock, who “paraded proudly,/ a pomegranate perched atop his head,” and Tortoise, who trudges with a tambourine on its back, a menagerie of animals rise wondrously to the occasion, peaceably wending their way to greet the Christ child, whose family is portrayed with brown skin. Carlos uses greens, pinks, and purples in engaging, saturated art, en route to a moving stable denouement featuring a lullaby sung by attendant angels. Sheet music and lyrics conclude. (Publishers Weekly)