Where did the tradition of displaying a manger scene come from? Find out in Saint Francis and the Nativity, an engaging story that weaves together the history of the first nativity with the fictional story of Mario, a young shepherd boy, who helps Saint Francis of Assisi find a way to visually display the true meaning of Christmas.
At that moment, Brother Francis laid a figure of baby Jesus in the manger bed. Where did the tradition of displaying a manger scene come from? Find out in Saint Francis and the Nativity, an engaging story that weaves together the history of the first nativity with the fictional story of Mario, a young shepherd boy, who helps Saint Francis of Assisi find a way to visually display the true meaning of Christmas. Children will love the beautiful illustrations and the suggested family activities that accompany this sweet story.
Myrna Strasser lived in East Moline, Illinois, and memories of times spent with her family inspired many of her writings. She was a full-time announcer at WDLM, a broadcast ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Before moving into radio, Myrna was a high school history and speech teacher for twenty years.
Fausto Bianchi was born on Lake Como and now lives and works in Varese, Italy. He lives with his wife, child, and a dog and cat. Fausto has done illustrations for several Italian publishing houses and advertising agencies. He especially enjoys working with watercolors and has begun to use digital formats to create the same watercolor effects. He uses this technique for the illustrations in St. Francis and the Nativity.
In Saint Francis and the Nativity by Myrna A. Strasser, the author tells the historical tale of how St. Francis in 1223 used a cave, a donkey and sheep, and a carved replica of baby Jesus lying in some straw to create a graphic display of what the first Christmas must have been like. Hundreds of people came that night from nearby villages to see the scene and to hear the priest tell the story of the birth of the Christ child. This practice rapidly spread to other towns and cities, where it was done live or recreated in set images by woodcarvers. Today, nativity scenes are found in millions of homes at Christmas, as well as in front of churches, town squares, and stores.
The book is illustrated by Fausto Bianchi, who used computer generated digital graphics to replicate the style of watercolor paintings. The story features a young boy named Mario, who helps St. Francis by watching his animals when the priest has to go out of town and by locating the cave for the live nativity scene. Mario is shown tending to sheep in wide pastures or visiting busy Italian cities, and each scene is bright with vivid colors and busy with moving animals and people. Although the text refers to St. Francis needing to visit the Pope in Rome for permission to put on the play, the book itself does not present any specific leaning toward Catholic practices and teachings, but, rather, stays close to the biblical story of the manger scene and birth of Jesus. It's an interesting bit of history told in a way that will hold the interest of 3- to 8-year-old children. Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Vibrant illustrations in luminous, jewel-bright hues are the captivating attraction of this Christmas story about St. Francis of Assisi. Bianchis striking illustrations are computer generated, with watercolor effects that create shimmering colors. The darker illustrations of the Nativity scene in the cave have the look of stained-glass windows, with deeper hues and a sense of mystery. Moreover, he creates an interesting tension between traditionally depicted characters of the period and stylized shapes in the trees and leaves. Kirkus Reviews
Books about Saint Francis for kids usually center on his mystical relationship with animals and nature. This one, however, is about an event in his life that should have equal interest: his creation of the first Nativity scene. Framed in the fictional tale of a young shepherd named Mario, Strassers story begins when the boy helps Francis load his cart of supplies. A friendship forms, and it is a remark by Mario, who wishes he could have seen the night of Jesus birth, that gives Francis an idea. While Francis is getting permission from the church, Mario finds the perfect cave in which to enact the holy night. The fictional framework for the story does not mesh as seamlessly as it might with the facts, but the addition of Mario does bring a childs perspective to the tale. The full-bleed illustrations, whose glow is reminiscent of stained glass, offer a delicate young shepherd and saint, and they capture the wonderment of both a special night and its first recreation. A good choice for Christmas shelves.
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