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Christmas Book Review 2010

Book Review by Ann Jonas, Tradebook Buyer - CSB/SJU Bookstores
this review was published in the St. Cloud Visitor

The Child in the Manger Liesbet Slegers, Clavis Books, 2010, 30 pp
Belgian author and illustrator Liesbet Slegers has created a delightful picture book, retelling the birth of Jesus in a clear and simple manner.  The Child in the Manger was first published in Belgium and Holland in 2002, and is now available in the English language.  The book begins with Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem and ends with the shepherds and kings visiting the newborn Jesus along with a simple explanation of why we celebrate Christmas.  The text is easy for young children to understand:  "The shepherds and kings were amazed. They could see the newborn Jesus! The shepherds gave him a cuddle. The kings gave him their gifts."  The bright colors of the childlike illustrations help explain the meaning of Christmas to young children in a charming manner.

In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story as told by David McCullough, Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2010, 33 pp
On Christmas Eve, 1941, just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  At twilight, the two leaders spoke from a White House balcony, delivering a message of hope to the crowd of 20,000 people present and to the nation listening on the radio.  Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough gives an account of this event, and includes the remarks of both Churchill and Roosevelt in his new book In the Dark Streets Shineth.  McCullough links the stories behind the Christmas tunes "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to the era, and states "Take away American music from the American story and you take away a good part of the soul of the story."  The small book includes a number of photographs as well as a short DVD of McCullough's presentation of this story at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 2009 Christmas concert.  In The Dark Streets Shineth is a touching and inspiring gift book for the Christmas season.

Memories Before and After The Sound of Music: An Autobiography by Agathe von Trapp, HarperCollins, 2010, 212 pp
Forty-five years ago, the movie The Sound of Music won five Oscars, including Best Picture. The film's story of the von Trapp family, and how they escaped the Nazis, captured the hearts of audiences all over the world.  The eldest daughter of the von Trapp family, Agathe, has written the true story of her family in her autobiography Memories Before and After the Sound of Music.  The book was originally published in 2004, by PublishAmerica, and republished on a wider scale this fall by HarperCollins. The book includes the family histories of both her father Georg von Trapp and her mother, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp, who died when Agathe was eight.  Agathe's vivid memories of her childhood and her recollections of her family's travels and hardships are highlighted by family photographs and her own sketches.  Although Agathe makes it clear that the story of her family in The Sound of Music is not entirely correct, she explains how she has finally come to terms with the inaccuracies, and has come to embrace the play, the movie, and the music.  Her memoir is an interesting read for all fans of The Sound of Music.