Thursday, December 18, 2014

Beautiful Book #47

The Nativity. Text from The Authorized King James Version of the Bible. Illustrated by Julie Vivas. Harcourt, 1988.

Goodness gracious. I am sitting in my office looking at the list of books I drew up one lunch hour in August when I started this project, and, even with prioritization, there's 4 too many titles for my list of 50, not to mention about another 25 on my 'reluctantly didn't make it' list. And that's just from that quick, preliminary jotting down of the illustrated books I love. And then there are those books that were new to me this fall which started to bump the list around even more. I can't deny it any longer: this Beautiful Books Series should continue in the new year, well past the original promised 50. Given the demands of my work-a-day life, it certainly won't continue at the same pace, but maybe I'll be able to wrestle time away from other tasks to put one up every week or two for a while longer.

With that off my chest, I can now relax into the final four I promised in time for Christmas. It also lets me juggle the list enough so that I can make all four of those books, Christmas books. The library Christmas party starts in just over an hour, my colleagues are bedecked in ugly sweaters of red and green, and the time for Christmas books just feels right.

Australian water colour illustrator, Julie Vivas, is perhaps best known for her collaborative work with writer Mem Fox on the titles, Hush, Possum Magic and Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. She has also illustrated for Margaret Wild among others, including today's pick... The King James Version of the Bible. Vivas' playful, pastel nativity is infused with the joy that the story of the nativity is meant to inspire. Her colour scheme is warm and summery which just seems fitting for an Australian's view of Christmas. It's hard not to love this book in a warm and fuzzy sorta way. Vivas' Angel Gabriel wears workboots and lands like a puffin, as if descending from heaven involved anything but grace. Other angels ride sheep with looks that mirror those of preschoolers on their first petting zoo ponies. Her Wise Men ride camels so tall that dismounting from their backs becomes comic fodder. But it is the soft, round illustrations of Mary in her bedroom slippers and the baby Jesus in his birthday suit that crack the heart wide open. In a holiday that has become so crass and commercial, it is good for everyone, even for those of us who do not profess a Christian faith, to be reminded that the heart of Christmas is ultimately about goofy, giddy love for a newborn baby.

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