________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV . . . . August 31, 2007

cover

A Small Nativity.

Aquiles Nazoa. Illustrated by Ana Palmero Cáceres. Translated by Hugh Hazelton.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2007.
44 pp., cloth, $9.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-839-2.

Subject Heading:
Jesus Christ-Nativity-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4

Reviewed from f&g’s.

excerpt:

Now the Virgin spreads her coat
over the fragrant hay,
and like a slender rose
her saintly body bends.

 

A Small Nativity is a unique addition to the large collection of children’s books depicting the birth of Christ. First published in Spanish as Retablillo de Navidad, the original text was written by Venezuelan poet, Aquiles Nazoa, who died in 1976. The text for A Small Nativity was translated by Hugh Hazelton and was illustrated by Ana Palmero Cáceres.       

The artwork is reminiscent of the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The Incan or Mayan influence is also evident in the artwork. Palmero Cáceres has incorporated birds and animals of South America into the illustrations. For instance, a jaguar, monkeys, and toucans all appear.

     As well as locating the Nativity in the Americas, the story has been given a modern setting with Maria and José (rather than Mary and Joseph) depicted in an interesting manner. José boasts a colourful striped t-shirt and loose-fitting trousers. Maria wears a button-up cardigan over an orange maternity dress. The Wise Men also arrive with Venezuelan instruments—a four-stringed guitar, maracas and a harp. Adding these types of details to sacred tales is upsetting to some people, but I find such alternate interpretations engaging and worthwhile.

     The translated text is not seamless, but it is poetic. In some places, the text rhymes, but the rhyming pattern is not maintained throughout the book. Despite the sparse primary text, the illustrator’s notes are expansive. There are four pages of details about the artwork and about the symbolism behind the items included in the illustrations.

     This is an attractive little book and will be a worthwhile addition to a family’s Christmas book collection.

Recommended.

Gregory Bryan is a member of the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Education.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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