Review: The Nativity – The Story of Baby Jesus, by May Eliot and Richard Johnson

Today sees the first review of three Christmas-themed books just in time for your shopping! This is The Nativity – The Story of Baby Jesus, written by May Eliot and illustrated by Richard Johnson.

image courtesy of


What it’s about (from the publisher): A classic yet simple retelling, perfect for little ones discovering the nativity for the first time, with stunning illustrations from award-winning Richard Johnson.

Holly’s review:

This book is about the birth of Christ. I wouldn’t call this book non-fiction but neither would I call it fiction. To me, it is a cross between the two. I also don’t think the sentence structure is that good. But don’t get me wrong – I think this is a good book because it is trying to teach little kids about the birth of Christ but it feels like it is missing something.

The pictures in this book were brilliant and very pretty. The brush work was beautiful so the pictures were very good.

If I was rating this book out of 10 I would give it a six. This does come across as a Christmassy book so it would definitely be a good Christmas story for children.

Sam’s review:

It is interesting that Holly mentioned the writing style in this book because it was one of the things I was also going to comment on. The author has combined an easier style of narration for the young intended audience with smatterings of Biblical phrasings, such as ‘King Herod decreed’ and the favourite about how shepherds ‘were watching their flock by night’. However, sometimes the sentence structure was rather hard to read and felt a little unnatural (eg ‘a beautiful angel shining brightly appeared’), which is quite an important element of children’s stories, and of picture books in particular. There needs to be a natural rhythm to lull the child into listening and unfortunately this book seemed to miss that lyrical quality.

The press release we received with the book strangely didn’t mention the author and focused on the illustrator – Richard Johnson – which perhaps explains the feeling we got that this book is more about the pictures than the text. The illustrations are stunning – soft and gentle with a pastel-like effect that provides a comforting feel to the book. The anthropomorphism of the animals in the stable leads us into familiar picture-book territory and grounds the story of Jesus’ birth within it. I was a little surprised at one picture though – I have always assumed the manger that Jesus was born in was adjacent to the inn but this book has them travel outside of Bethlehem to reach it. This of course won’t disturb a young child but as an adult familiar with this tale I was just a little taken aback!

Overall I think Holly and I both thought this was a suitable introduction to the story of the Nativity but I wasn’t quite sure what it added to other stories that already exist, apart from Johnson’s illustrations.

Please note that while we received a review copy of this book, we were under no obligation to read or review it, and all thoughts and opinions are our own.



    • LOL! It’s hard I think for authors to come up with a new twist on the traditional story and I felt that the author in this case was acting as more of a vehicle for the illustrator’s talents, which is a shame.


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