Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Nativity Book Poster Image
Simple, kid-friendly rendering of Jesus' birth and message.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Pared-down adaptation of the King James Bible version of the nativity story and four beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. 

Positive Messages

Four of the eight beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nativity by Newbery Medal author and illustrator Cynthia Rylant (Missing May) adapts the story of Jesus' birth from the King James Bible. She then seamlessly skips ahead to Jesus as an adult, quoting from his Sermon on the Mount and four of what are known as the beatitudes, beginning with "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The smooth transition links the miraculous birth story to Jesus' message. That and Rylant's appealing folk art paintings make this a distinctive and meaningful holiday offering.

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What's the story?

Starting with the shepherds being visited by an angel and then finding Mary, Joseph, and their baby in a manger, Cynthia Rylant tells the story of Jesus' NATIVITY. Then she quickly moves the story up in time: "When the babe, who was called Jesus, became a man, he stood one day on a mountain before a great multitude of people." And she quotes four of what are known as the beatitudes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, finishing her book with: "Blessed are the pure in heart ... for they shall see God."

Is it any good?

This kid-friendly religious book uses spare text and inviting, childlike acrylic paintings to tell a pared-down version of Jesus' birth story (shepherds, but no kings or inn keepers). But what really distinguishes Nativity from other Christmas books is shifting the focus in the second half to Jesus' message by portraying and quoting from the Sermon on the Mount. Author-illustrator Cynthia Rylant quotes four of the eight beatitudes -- not too many for young kids to grasp -- using the last to end on a hopeful note about seeing God.

Rylant's simple wintry scenes will draw kids in. Some look like ancient Bethlehem. Others, like the spread on which a person leaning up against a five-story building faces a snowy page with the words "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," remind us of the homeless and destitute in our cities today.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the folk art style in Nativity. Do the illustrations remind you of finger painting? 

  • Some books about Jesus being born use fancy art and lots of words. What's different about this version of the story?

  • What parts of the story do you know from Christmas carols? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Christmas stories

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