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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who Built the Stable, written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster. 2012. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"He built the wooden stable
For his donkey, ox, and sheep,
A shelter from the weather,
A home at night for sleep.
He watered them at sunrise
Where they'd graze and freely roam.
He called to them at sunset -
"Follow me!" - and led them home."

The question is asked, and Ashley Bryan takes time to provide an answer.

“A child built the stable.
A little shepherd boy
Apprenticed as a carpenter
In his father’s employ.”

When Ashley Bryan was riding from place to place while working with children in Africa, he brought out his sketchbook to work while traveling. He noticed an old entry question...who built the stable? It started the creative juices flowing and before they arrived at their destination he had an idea for this loving, warmhearted nativity poem.

He is a firm believer that all children want to help when they see that help is needed. So, his main character is a young boy following in his father's footsteps, who builds the stable where Mary and Joseph will eventually find comfort and shelter. His love for his many animals is evident in every smile, and warm gesture. His dog is always with him.

As Mary and Joseph approach, he takes note of the glowing star that shines from the night sky. They come nearer and he asks how he can help. They need shelter; he has it. As Joseph leans down to pay attention to the boy's dog, the boy greets Mary with a promise of welcome. He is delighted in the morning when he sees that the baby has been born. He has a strong feeling about him:

"The boy looked in
The infant's eyes and in his heart he knew:
The babe would be a carpenter.
He'd be a shepherd too."

The full poem is reprinted at the end of the book.

You can tell from the cover photo above what a feast for the eyes this new book is. Ashley Bryan uses tempera and acrylic paints in bright and attractive hues to create his artwork. He sets his story in Africa where Mary and Joseph would have traveled and has them look just like any visitor to his father's carpentry shop. Light from the sun, the moon and the stars shine on every brightly colored image, and each will attract much attention as readers and listeners share this truly beautiful book.

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