It's Day 10 of our 12 Days of Christmas Picture Books series. Christmas excitement is at an all-time high around here, as we're feverishly counting down the last few days of our advent calendar and wondering when some presents are going to appear under the tree. Meanwhile, Santa and Mrs. Claus are trying to sneak in opportunities for gift-wrapping when our little elf is asleep - easier said than done as we no longer have the luxury of naptime for chores like these!
Today's pick is one for our fellow Ethiopian adoptive families. I ran across this book almost exactly a year ago, and have been excited to share it as part of this year's Christmas books countdown. For adoptive families looking for ways to keep their children connected to their heritage, understanding and appreciating the religious traditions in their child's birth country is essential. While there are several great children's books by and about Ethiopians, there aren't a whole lot that center around the Orthodox tradition in Ethiopia. It's a shame, really, because Ethiopia's connection with religious traditions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) are fundamental to its identity as a nation.
So on to today's book -- The Road to Bethlehem: An Ethiopian Nativity by Elizabeth Laird. This book is special because it really reveals the unique heritage of the Christian church in Ethiopia, both through its text and through its illustrations. Laird takes her inspiration from the text from ancient manuscripts, many of which are reproduced in the paintings in the book. She takes the long view of the nativity story, telling us of the Holy Family's origins as well as what happens after Jesus's birth. Those more familiar with Western Christianity may find some aspects of the story are related differently, but there are many similarities here as well. And the artwork -- it's soulful and stirring, full of the details and colors that make Ethiopian art distinct from other religious iconography.
This is a long title and one that will be best shared with older children. I can see older adoptees in particular finding a conection with this title, both through the stories Laird tells and through the art that is included. Adoptive families may consider tracking down a copy (it's out of print, sadly, but you can find used copies through some sources) and making it part of their annual Christmas tradition. It's a wonderful bridge between cultures that honors all parts of the Christmas story.
The Road to Bethlehem: An Ethiopian Nativity by Elizabeth Laird, published by Henry Holt
Ages 6-12, or read to the whole family
Sample: "Mary grew to be full of grace. She was of medium height, with a face the color of ripe wheat. Her eyes were brown and bright, and her eyebrows black and arched. Her face was oval and her nose was long. She spoke clearly and fearlessly, and was seldon angry. She was simple, and humble, she wore plain, homespun clothes, and she listened to people when they talked to her."