Destination Bethlehem is set in ancient Palestine, opening just prior to the birth of Christ. Through the ‘eyes’ of young Isaac and Jediah during their travels we are introduced to all the main ‘characters’ of the Nativity Story; Zachariah Elizabeth, shepherds, Mary and Joseph. With Isaac we travel from his little village to Jerusalem, back to the village and then to Bethlehem for the census, culminating with the birth of Our Saviour.The book starts with a rather gripping introduction as we journey with Isaac and his neighbour Zachariah to Jerusalem, we focus on Zachariah when the angel appeared to him to foretell the birth of his son. The authors include interesting historical and cultural facts about Jewish Traditions.
Destination Bethlhem is divided into 24 short chapters, designed to read one per day from December the 1st through to Christmas Eve. One benefit of short chapters means it is easy to play ‘catch up’ if you fall behind;) At the conclusion of each chapter the authors include a few interesting cultural facts, delightfully clear, pen and ink illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book.
The mother/daughter author team have done a wonderful job although there were a few areas that missed editing. Whilst the authors have mostly been true to the language of the time there are a few phrases that aren’t authentic. A few story plots appeared to be left loose but perhaps this may allow for a sequel? To be honest the conclusion was disappointing as I felt Mary and Joseph did not play enough of a strong, central role in the two times we ‘met’. Whilst Isaac’s mother in attendance allowed for Isaac’s families presence after the Birth of Christ, as I had always understood that Mary did not have attendants at her birth, I found it jarring and discordant, a sense of mystery was lost and it didn’t fit with my understanding of events, however I realise it isn’t against Church teaching.
Whilst the authors Sharon Altman and Christine Winkelman are Catholic this book would not be discordant to those readers of a Protestant or secular worldview. As first time authors they have written an engaging book, a welcome addition to the telling of the Christmas Story.
In the old days in Provence in southern France the whole village would take part in the Christmas March, bringing gifts to the Baby and His Mother, who were chosen from the newest babe born in the village. When this book begins the march has not been made in the village of Tourrone for many years. Six children work and plan to have the Christmas march again, obstacles are high but in the conclusion a miracle happens.
The Christmas Mystery – Jostein Gaarder
A chapter book to read for each day of Advent. Set in present-day Norway, Joachim, a young boy finds a faded, handmade Advent calendar in a bookstore on the eve of December first, and begs his father to let him take it home. The next morning, when he opens the calendar’s first door, Joachim discovers not just the expected picture but also a tightly folded piece of paper, the first installment of the fantastic tale of a little girl’s journey through time and space to be present at the Nativity. Soon the girl’s story is making unexpected intrusions into Joachim’s own life, and he races to solve the mystery of the calendar before Christmas Eve.
Miracle in the Wilderness – Paul Gallico
A long picture book but for older readers. In 18th century New England hostile Indians march their captives, a badly wounded man,his exhausted and terrified wife and their infant. All three were doomed to death or captivity. But this is Christmas Even and the party came upon a moonlit glade in the heart of the wilderness and there saw a strange sight, a Christmas miracle.
A lonely orphan girl, a doll without an owner and a kind lady with a Christmas tree and no-one to enjoy it. A short chapter book.
The Donkey who Always Complained – Francis Beauchesne Thornton
The Donkey, Balo, tells the story of her grandmother who carried Mary to Bethlehem and was present at The Birth. Then Balo carries Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
These three books form a trilogy. Designed to read a story a night throughout Advent culminating on Christmas Morning.
Ten year old Jotham crosses Israel searching for his family from whom he has been separated. He faces thieves, robbers and kidnappers. At last he finds his way to the Saviour born in Bethlehem. Our favourite of the trilogy.
Tabitha is the daughter of Eliakim a shepherd who is taking his family on caravan to his birthplace. along the way she meets Jotham and Bartholomew. She watches her father take her father prisoner, spends time with Zechariah and Elizabeth and rescues her father. She ends her travels at the stable in Bethlehem.