Review: Who Built the Stable? by Ashley Bryan

who built the stable

Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan

Dazzling art meets an equally vibrant poem in this Christmas book that focuses on the shepherd boy who built the stable where Jesus was born.  Award-winning illustrator and author, Ashley Bryan has crafted a story of the young boy who built the stable, a boy who is also a shepherd and a carpenter.  It is a story of craft and devotion, also one of diversity and acceptance.  Told in rhyming verse, this is a Christmas story that celebrates children and all they have to offer at the most joyous time of the year. 

While the poem has gentle rhymes, it also has a beautiful strength of story at its core that makes it very appropriate for the celebration of the Nativity.  Creating a story of another child whose own service echoes that of Jesus’ own is a powerful statement about how we can all have a role no matter how young we are. 

The art here is simply spectacular.  It reminds me of stained glass with its thicker outlines and brilliant colors.  Filled with swirls of colors, the images fairly dance on the page, creating a new vision of the holiday that is much more than green, red and white.  Beautiful!

Add some real beauty to your holiday with this bright, vibrant book that speaks to the true meaning of Christmas.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Underground by Denise Fleming


Underground by Denise Fleming

Explore the wonders of what happens underground in a garden with this picture book from the Caldecott Honor medalist, Denise Fleming.  This book takes the joys of digging in the dirt one step farther, offering a simple poem that invites children to explore and then illustrations that show a cross section that reveals all of the action happening below the surface.  Roots grow, moles and chipmunks make tunnels, a turtle lays her eggs, worms are pulled by a robin. 

Fleming’s simple poetry makes this a great option for small toddlers, those same ones with the dirty hands from digging in the dirt.  She then takes her signature pulp-paper collage and brings life to the book.  The pulp paper offers a texture and richness that is specific to that medium.  It is bright, deeply colored, and has a dimension that is remarkable.  Here the use of it to build that rich underground world is ideal.  The illustrations are large enough to use with a group, but detailed enough that there is plenty to explore up close.

Turn to the back pages for more details about the animals shown in the illustrations.  Ideal to read in the garden with a pail and shovel nearby for immediate exploring.  It will also make a great addition for any spring-themed units or story times.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

Horn Book Fanfare 2012

Horn Book has announced their top picks for the best children’s and YA books of 2012:



And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale


Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger


A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead

Jimmy the Greatest! by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng


Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky




The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

A Certain October by Angela Johnson

Chickadee by Louise Erdrich


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt


No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Penny and Her Doll by Kevin Henkes

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz




Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd

The Fairy Ring: Or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure


Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson