Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 18

Donkey Carol
by John Rutter, and performed by
The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge

Donkey riding over the bumpy road,
Carry Mary, all with her heavy load;
Follow Joseph, leading you on you way
Until you find a stable, somewhere to rest and stay.

Donkey watching over the Jesus child,
See the baby, all with his mother mild;
Hear the angels singing their song on high:
‘Nowell, nowell, nowell’, their caroling fills the sky.

Donkey resting all in a manger stall,
With the oxen worship the Lord of all.
Hush, he lies asleep on his bed of hay
While Mary sings so sweetly ‘Lulla, lullalay.’

Donkey waking all at the break of day,
See, a new light shining with brightest ray.
Long the weary journey you soon must start,
But you will travel gladly; God will make brave your heart.

Donkey skip for joy as you go your way;
Alleluia, Jesus is born today.
Hark, the bells ring out with their message clear:
Rejoice and sing that Christ our Saviour divine is here.

I've had a lovely day with my parents here in Stratford, and the little girlies and I mooched all around the downtown, in order to finish the last of the Christmas shopping.

Our absolute favourite store is the wonderful Fundamentals Books and Toys... No matter what I am researching or teaching at any given time, I can always be sure that if there is a good children's book available out there somewhere, the friendly staff will not only know exactly what I am asking about, but more often than not, they will be able to produce a copy for me.

Today, as we walked through the door, we were confronted with an enormous holiday book display. Front-and-centre was a new children's Nativity book that I have never seen before. "Through the Animals' Eyes" is a beautiful rendition of the Christmas story, accompanied by the most exquisite wood-engraved illustrations.

Author and artist Christopher Wormell began his early career when he learned lino-cutting from his father. The Wormell family created their own series of Christmas cards each year. Eventually, their work became so popular, it turned into a "cottage industry", in which Christopher, his brothers and sisters produced hand-made cards by the hundreds.

When his first child was born, Christopher Wormell created and published two alphabet books for his son, Jack, which earned rave reviews and several prestigious awards for illustration. His other books for children include "Teeth, Tails & Tentacles", "Mice, Morals & Monkey Business", the "Blue Rabbit" series, "Animal Train", "George and the Dragon", and "Swan Song", which is a collection of poems by J. Patrick Lewis about extinct animals.

What I like best about "Through The Animals' Eyes" is that Mr. Wormell does not stop at simply re-telling the Christmas story, and showing it from the animals' unique point-of-view. At the end of the book, he lists the animals who have been featured in his illustrations, and gives a short description of each one. As well as the camel, the sheep, the cow, and the donkey that we would normally associate with the story of Jesus' birth, he also features symbolic animals such as the dove, the honeybee, the lion, and the griffon vulture, carefully explaining the significance of each, and his reasons for including them in this work.

Of the Asiatic Donkey, he writes:

A small, surefooted animal preferred by Hebrews over packing animals. When families traveled over rocky, uneven trails of the Holy Land, women and children would ride these animals as the men guided them along.

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