Customer Reviews: Mary's First Christmas
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on December 17, 2001
I've been collecting children's Christmas books for years, but this is one of the most beautiful and original ones I have ever seen. Religious Christmas books don't have a lot of variety in the story, of course. They tell about the birth of Jesus and no matter how beautiful the story is, everyone tells it pretty much the same way. The only thing that usually distinguishes one nativity book from another is the quality of the illustrations.
The illustrations in this book are nice, although nothing spectacular. But Walter Wangerin has found a unique way of telling the story. He has Mary tell the child Jesus (he looks about six or seven) about how he was born. It's a wonderful approach because every child loves to hear about the day he or she was born, and this gives them a strong identification with Jesus, and creates a touching sense of the warm relationship between Mary and her son that is usually missing from nativity stories. Her emphasis in telling the story is on all the love he was given at birth Ñ from God, from Mary and Joseph, from the angels, and from shepherds and kings.
The other unique quality of this book is that throughout the story, in subtle ways (but directly enough so that my six-year-old was aware of it) the author reminds you that Jesus will die. Mary tells the birth story to Jesus to comfort him when he is treated cruelly by other children (and she seems well aware that this will not be the last time he is treated horribly), and in the final illustration, Joseph is teaching Jesus some carpentry skills and we see Jesus joining two pieces of wood together in the shape of a cross. It is a sad undertone, one you don't usually find in Christmas books (and one many parents may prefer to avoid at Christmas time). But the context is this: at his birth, God and the world gave Jesus love, and through his death he returned that love. At Christmas, we usually focus on the joy not the sorrow, but I found this book very moving, and so did my daughter. We have dozens of Christmas books in the house, but over the past few weeks she's been asking for this one almost every day.
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on December 27, 1998
I have shared this story with so many parents of the children I teach. They have come back with their own stories of shared and treasured moments with their children while they have read it together. Walter Wangerin has a wonderful talent of weaving facts into memorable people with whom we share the joys and sorrows of being human. MAry's tale of the moment Jesus was born brought back the same feelings I had the moment my own son was born. The illustrations are beautiful!
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on December 6, 1999
I have read this story to my three children and we all love it! It brings you back to the time Jesus was born and how Mary and Joseph felt about becoming parents to the Son of God. It is unlike any other Christmas book we have read. The illustrations are also remarkable. We think it is a "must have book" for everyone's library.
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on July 24, 2003
This was an innovative and novel way to retell a familiar story, however Mary came off more ditzy than maternal. She "giggled" and "pinched Joseph's nose" when springing the news on him that she's pregnant (quipping that she is "fat" because of reason that "wiggles deep inside" her) and she is just dumbfounded when Joseph is stunned and angry over her condition. Then when her parents try to comfort her, she tells them both "leave me alone," behaving like a pouty teen rather than the woman chosen to be the mother of mankind's savior.
The section on Mary's visit with Elizabeth was much better --- very touching and it had a very "real" feel to it. But she was back to shouting and stomping about in Bethlehem, giving birth by "pushing so hard" she could force "a boulder up a hill." Again, not quite the image of the Blessed Virgin I want to share with my kids at Christmastime.
Overall, the book is good but it is not "a tradition" in our family for the above reasons. Try "A Very Small Miracle" for a nice "new take" on the ancient tale.
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on December 5, 2001
This book is quite wonderful. My kids loved it! The illustrations are very nice and the story of the first Christmas is well told. Entertaining for both parents and kids. The glimpse into the life of Jesus as a small boy is very well done, especially considering that we know nothing of his childhood from the Scriptures, except for his birth and the story of when he was thought lost but was in the temple. The story brings Mary and Jesus and even Josheph alive for the reader.
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on October 14, 1998
An entirely naturalistic approach to the traditional Nativity story, told in 4 parts as a bedtime story in flash-back. Very accessible, full of love and warmth, like "The Runaway Bunny", only with humans, and the child being reassured is actually the very young Jesus. Fun to read aloud as well. A unique Christmas gift!
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on November 11, 2009
Mary's First Christmas, written by award-winning author Walter Wangerin Jr., tells the story of the Nativity from Mary's perspective using the first person point of view. In the story, Mary is talking to her five-year-old son Jesus. Jesus has a gash in his forehead caused by a stone thrown at him. As Mary tends to the wound, she begins telling the story of his life.

The book is divided into four chapters. Each chapter relates a different part of the story. In chapter one, Mary doesn't start her story with that blessed night in Bethlehem; instead, she begins her story with her encounter with the angel nine months before Jesus' birth. The angel tells her she will have a son and she will call him Jesus. Mary tells Jesus how excited she was to receive such wonderful news.

Chapter two begins with her telling Joseph the news. At first, Joseph is very angry because he thinks Mary has been with another man. Then an angel visits him and tells him he is to wed Mary and raise the child as his own.

Chapter three is the story of Jesus' actual birth. Mary tells Jesus how she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem and couldn't find a place to spend the night. They were forced to bed down in a stable with the animals and that's where Jesus was born.

In chapter four, Mary tells Jesus about the three wise men who came to visit when Jesus was nearly two months old. The wise men warned Mary and Joseph that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus, so the family fled to Egypt to keep him safe. After King Herod died, the family went back to Nazareth where Jesus grew up. Mary tells him he will face a life of sorrow and hardship but that he would be "the one to heal the dangers and hatred and sin of the world."

The language of the text is poetic and lyrical. Here's a sample, taken from chapter three: "On the night you were born the whole sky exploded with love, and the angels shouted, and more than a thousand thousand hearts were in love with my baby Jesus on his birthday!" The colorful, vivid and incredibly life-like illustrations, by Timothy Ladwig, are a feast for the eyes and the text is music to the ears.

What I Like: Everything, especially the way the story is told. This is the only children's picture book about Jesus' birth that I know of that has Mary telling Jesus about his birth. Every child can relate to this as they love to hear stories about themselves.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent.

Age Appeal: The publisher suggests ages 4-8 as the target audience for this book, but I believe this book would have much wider appeal than that, at least 4-10, maybe more. I know I enjoyed the book!

Christine M. Irvin - Christian Children's Book Review
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on November 18, 2011
This is by far my very favorite Christmas book of all time! It is a must own! This beautifully written and illustrated book brings Christ's miraculous birth and significance into the forefront of the holiday. For our family this replaced "The Night Before Christmas" as our Christmas Eve read. Why read a fairy tale when you could focus on God? God is all powerful!
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on December 16, 2012
I purchased this book for my grandchildren, but I also, enjoyed reading it. It is a book that will help children realize that Jesus was once a small child and had the same type of experiences that they also have. It makes Jesus very human in little ones mind.
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on December 3, 2013
Beautiful story and beautifully illustrated! I just hate that it is hard to find locally. In this story, Jesus is a young boy and Mary tells him the story of his birth. It is nice to think that Jesus (like all children) enjoyed hearing his birth story. I read this to my daughter (4) and she was captivated to whole time! She loved the book and then we talked about the night she was born.
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