CM Archive
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Maryleah Otto
Illustrated by Mary Firth
Stratford (Ont.), Three Tree Press, 1989. 22pp, paper, $6.95, ISBN 0-88823-143-1
Distributed by Firefly Books. CIP

Grades 1 to 3/Ages 6 to 8

Reviewed by Theo Hersh.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Mark and the Manger is an earnest little book that gently conveys the true Christian meaning of Christmas. Mark is going to attend his first Christmas midnight mass. His older sister Kate has already been to midnight mass and Mark excitedly asks her what to expect.

The cathedral's creche is beautiful and unusual. Instead of farm animals encircling the Christ child, their church has a lion, an elephant and a mouse. If the family arrives early enough Mark can pull the lion's tail. When they do get to church, Mark notices a shivering tortoise-shell cat huddling next to the dean. She reminds Mark of Velvet, their cat who died the previous summer. Before the service is over the cat slips into the church and finds a cozy resting place in the manger. The next morning when the family returns to church to deliver presents to the needy, Mark and Kate discover the cat and a newborn kitten there.

Mark and the Manger is a well-written story with good descriptions and enough action to keep it moving. The double-page illustrations are soft three-colour washes and complement the gentle mood of the text. This Christmas story is not secular. With its specialized vocabulary - words such as "chancel," "dean," "altar," "Saviour," etc. - and its religious tone, it is aimed at a select audience. While it is religiously specific, it is not didactic. It is a book which can be shared comfortably and comfortingly by the family at Christmas time.

Theo Hersh, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, Ont.
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