A Night of Great Joy / by Mary Engelbreit. 12.13.2017

Zonderkidz ISBN 9780310743545

PRI PS-Grade 2 Rating: 4

In A Night of Great Joy, Mary Engelbreit uses her distinct illustrative style combined with simple text to retell the Nativity story for a primary audience. The illustrations depict a children’s Christmas pageant, complete with wooden props, paper stars hanging from string, a red wagon, children dressed in animal costumes, a rocking horse, and stuffed animals. This provides an engaging backdrop for the story of Christ’s birth, one that may inspire its young reader audience to recreate.

From Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay to angels appearing to the shepherds and the wise men following a bright star, the complete story unfolds in color-rich scenes visually mirroring the text, capturing both eyes and ears. The text on each page ranges from one to five sentences, appearing in varying font size with some color to create interest; however, the text does not detract from the full-page illustrations.

A subtle humor is sparingly added as some of the illustrations portray the unscripted actions of a few of the child actors, such as fighting over a stuffed sheep or a young cow falling asleep on stage. Children will enjoy pointing these out, while adults will find this touch of authenticity endearing. Overall, this is a charming rendition of the Christmas story that brings the joy of that wondrous night to life.

Justina McBride, CLJ