I am reviewing one of the most beautiful and reverent picture books you’ll find for Christmas! The Nativity, by J. Kirk Richards, has a sacred feel from cover to cover. Upon opening the book, you find the end-pages filled with a glow of gold. When turning the pages, a pallet of brown and gold hues filter through every facet of this first Christmas. The story never gets old and this scripture telling is from a blend of the books of Matthew and Luke, and concluding with John 11:25-26 where Jesus said “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die…” This follows with the powerful message of John 20:31 where John states that “…Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
The gorgeous art stands alone as each page is as beautiful as the previous page and gloriously displays a reverent tone. Even a novice will take notice of the appearances of texture and layers which seem to take hold of the whole with a humble abode. The illustrator explained his technique to me where I learned of his patient, loving and time-consuming process that made these pictures become even more priceless. He used a mixed-media combination of glued papers, acrylic and oil paints and gold leaf. He was able to create the layering effect by building on these papers and then sanding them down only to build them up again. He wanted to “capture and combine the exalted feeling of classical imagery” and blending primitive and modern art. His ultimate goal was to achieve a “feeling of reverence and timelessness.” You’ll see that he has achieved this on every page throughout the book.
I asked Richards what he used for his inspiration for the backdrop of this first Christmas. He explained that he traveled to Israel and Italy and walked “where Jesus walked” where he peered “out on the same port that Paul traveled to on his way to Rome.” He gained an appreciation of the building materials and textures used throughout these locales which helped inspire him to create a picture on every page that could stand alone with its own merits.
He explained that he had painted many pictures of Mary and the baby Jesus but that he’d felt for a while that he needed to paint the story following the scriptures. The text, which follows the scriptures precisely, is such a perfect blend of the same combination of color which helps create an aesthetic ambiance of reverence and love. Some pages have just scripture with the devoted illustration reflecting what took place on the opposite page, but most of these scriptures reflect and seem to flow right beside the pictures. On one open page, there is a gathering of angels with their hands clasped together in a prayerful position. There is gleaming gold throughout their images that seem to emit their voices as you look upon these side-by-side pages. You can almost hear their angelic, triumphant voices saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” You can see from the picture Mary reverently and lovingly holding the Christ child with the painstaking detail that Richards used in achieving the uplifting and inspiring book that “The Nativity” has become.
The last two pages are the complete scriptures taken from “The King James Version of the Holy Bible”. It makes the partial scriptures used in the book complete and perfect for reading on Christmas Eve for families of all ages. In fact, this should become a standard of use at Christmas time for families everywhere. It’s one of these precious books that should be set out in living and family rooms for all to pour over again and again. I can’t think of another picture book more perfect than “The Nativity” for our cherished Christmas time of year, or better yet all throughout the year!
Perhaps the best way to end this review is with the ending of this wonderful book. The final page has the glorious scripture from Isaiah 9:6 which states: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”