Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vintage Thursday: Christmas in the Barn

The Writer absolutely loves all things Margaret Wise Brown. She is pleased to be a "Hollins Girl" like Margaret (and Margaret's mother)--

She's pretty old to be any kind of girl. And that's a terrible picture!

Once you graduate from Hollins University, you are a Hollins girl, no matter what your age. Anyway, before The Writer went to Hollins, she earned her M.F.A. in writing for children at Vermont College. For graduation, she asked for--and received--ten vintage Margaret Wise Brown books. Christmas in the Barn is one of them.

The Nativity story is told in rhyme: "In a big warm barn in an ancient field/The oxen lowed,/The donkey squealed,/the horses stomped,/The cattle sighed,/And quietly the daylight died/In the sunset of the west./And a star rose/Brighter than all stars in the sky." Barbara Cooney's scratchboard illustrations, alternating color and black and white, show a New England barn and blanket-covered horses hitched to sleighs parked in the snow. The "two people who had lost their way" are wearing coats, boots, and cloaks. The scene with the wise men show kings kneeling before the baby's basket, their crowns removed.

By removing the Christmas story from Bethlehem, Brown shows that miracles can happen anywhere. Cooney's illustrations in mustard, red and blue give an earthiness to the event. The book was published in 1952, the year The Writer was born and the year Margaret Wise Brown died, at the age of 42.


Becky said...

This one looks fun. I really like the illustrations--my guess is that the text is just as good.

ellsworth said...

The Writer is a huge fan of scratchboard artists. She remembers coloring a page, then rubbing black crayon over and scratching out a picture. Not *quite* the same.