Christmas by Dick Bruna

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Christmas by Dick Bruna

Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lorraine McDonald
Reviewed by Lorraine McDonald
Summary: Dick Bruna’s picture book ‘Christmas’ tells the story of the nativity in his own inimitable manner. Drawn in his archetypal Miffy style, this tale sweetly captures the spirit and meaning of the season.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1471121128

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Dick Bruna’s picture book ‘Christmas’ tells the story of the nativity in his own inimitable manner. Drawn in his archetypal Miffy style, this tale sweetly captures the spirit and meaning of the season.

In recent times there seems to have been a trend towards extending the cast of nativity plays or making the ‘plot’ more exciting. Including little known or dubious extras such as the stable cat or a little drummer boy, gives more roles for children. Transposing the setting to modern times is a nice change for veteran teachers and parents. Thankfully there are no such surprises here. Dick Bruna does the opposite. He takes the story and pares the events and people down to the minimum necessary to tell the tale simply. You won’t find a white rabbit in an orange dress scampering along with these shepherds. Mary and Joseph’s long trek to Bethlehem to be counted goes unrecorded. They appear for the first time, with Jesus already born and safe in his manger, after the angels appear to the shepherds. The three kings arrive and relate the details of their journey. Shepherds and Kings then take their leave of the new parents to spread the good news and the story is over.

You know this re-issue is something a bit special as soon as you pick it up. At 29 by 16cm, it’s not going to sit neatly and unobtrusively on the shelf with the other books. Apart from the story, there are other reasons why this volume is memorable. The front and back covers are rendered in a sophisticated gold and white. A die cut angel on a black ribbon serves as a book mark. This is a handsome tome to be treasured.

‘Christmas’ is a translation of the original Dutch text ‘Kerstmis’. Although the story is told in simple prose, the sentences are not always fluent. There are a lot of And and And and And and And’s! This put me in mind of a child telling the tale, which is quite sweet if slightly annoying. A quick look on-line suggests that other translations exist that seem smoother.

The illustrations in ‘Christmas’ are typical Bruna. Their charm lies in their simplicity, yet this simplicity belies the skill of Bruna as a communicator. Take away the text and you can pretty much work out the story just from looking at the pictures. This makes the book an ideal choice for the pre-literate child who will be able to pick it up and ‘read along’ on their own.

I have to admit to having a soft spot for the work of Bruna. Miffy was a firm childhood friend for me in the 1970’s – I loved the signature colours, the clean lines, the simple text and the characterisation. Seeing this style again evokes nostalgia. I want to share this with my son. It feels a little sacrilegious then to find fault. However, I was slightly uncomfortable with the description of the three kings, two of whom are identified by their facial hair with no comment on their demeanour and one by the colour of his face with the note that it is ‘kindly’. I may have modern day hypersensitivity but this struck me as odd, anachronistic language. On a separate point, I also felt a little short changed when I came to the last page to find text but no illustration opposite. It feels as though something is missing and it was a bit of a damp squib for my little boy to end with words and no picture.

Despite the points above, this is a lovely book that I will be sharing with my son on an annual basis, albeit with a bit of ad-libbing on the text until he is old enough to catch me out. I will pack it away in January with the tinsel and the baubles, ready to be rediscovered next year.

We can also recommend The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski.

Buy Christmas by Dick Bruna at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Christmas by Dick Bruna at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Christmas by Dick Bruna at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Christmas by Dick Bruna at Amazon.com.


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