Lullaby for the King

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)

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