From School Library Journal
Grade 3 Up–This poem was largely inspired by the terrible natural disasters occurring throughout the world when Angelou was invited to read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony. Thus, the opening lines rumble and roil almost menacingly to illustrate the climate of doubt and anxiety into which the spirit of Christmas arrives. Hope enters as a whisper and grows until it is louder than the explosion of bombs. The harsher aspects of the world fade as people of all faiths and races join together in trust and brotherhood. Johnson and Fancher's paintings, rendered in oil, acrylic, and fabric on canvas, elegantly depict a calm, snow-blanketed village where children play, families shop, and artisans ply their crafts. People gather at the Town Hall for sweets and cocoa, and then, in a candlelight procession, join again to sing beneath the stars. This is a comforting book that gets to the heart of what Christmas should mean. As an added treat, Angelou reads the poem on the accompanying CD.–Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library
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Originally read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony and published as a Christmas book for adults, Angelou’s stirring poem is presented alongside convivial winter scenes in a picture book intended for young readers, but whose message and splendid artwork will appeal to all ages. Angelou celebrates the spirit of the season—a time to learn to look beyond complexion and see community—with a resonating call for hope, unity, and, above all, peace. Johnson and Fancher’s richly textured acrylic, oil, and fabric collage illustrations reflect the sentiments of the poem while also telling their own story, as a family makes their way through a snowy small town to join their multicultural community in a celebration at the town hall. From the strings of Christmas lights on buildings ingeniously constructed from textured fabric to the glorious washes of candlelight on the carolers’ faces, the timeless, heartwarming scenes dazzle the eye with their incandescence. An accompanying CD of Angelou’s reading the poem completes the package. Grades K-5. --Kristen McKulski