Today, not only do we head to the Middle East, but we also step back in time, back some two thousand years ago, to the time of Jesus’ birth.
The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (2011)
For ages 6-9
I had heard of this Christmas picture book, but this year I decided, based on reviews, to get a copy and read it. Wow, what a great book! Not only are the illustrations by Ibatoulline simply stunning, but the simple story by the gifted Linda Sue Park (author of Newbery Award Winner A Single Shard) will take you not only back in time and immerse you in the Middle Eastern culture, but shed light on a part of the nativity story that is often a mystery to children (and adults):
Did you ever wonder what myrrh is? Where does it come from? What was it used for?
The story centers around a Middle Eastern man and his son whose livelihood is selling myrrh. The book not only describes the process of collecting and preparing myrrh, but talks about its many uses. I also love how Park weaves into the story a close-knit father-son relationship, as well as the mysterious appearance of the wisemen who seek out the myrrh dealer to purchase myrrh, before continuing on their voyage.
The book ends with:
“I watch the three men mount their camels.
I watch them leave the marketplace
I watch as they ride into the desert
And I wonder about the baby.”
The Third Gift includes “Author’s Note” at the back of the book, which gives more historical details about the Biblical narrative and as well as the possible origins of the wisemen and further information about myrrh.
I highly recommend this book. It will grab younger children’s attention with it’s beautiful paintings in desert hues of gold, brown and orange, as well as shed new light and depth to the Christmas story, further in-bedding it in it’s cultural context and bringing it alive for little ones.
“Newbery Medalist Park’s lean, well-paced story bridges the ordinary and the sacred to powerful effect.”-Publishers Weekly