Who Built the Stable?
A Nativity Poem
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Who built the stable where Jesus lay? Multiple Coretta Scott King Award–winner Ashley Bryan has a very good idea in this beautiful and moving new layer to the nativity story.
Riding in an open Jeep across the plains of Africa, beloved and nationally acclaimed author and illustrator Ashley Bryan found himself comparing the terrain to Jerusalem, and the bumpy journey to that of Mary’s travel on a donkey. And he came up with a question: Who built the manger where Mary and Joseph found shelter?
The answer is conveyed in this beautifully crafted picture book that envisions a young boy, a shepherd and carpenter both who, out of love and kindness, cleared the way for another shepherd and carpenter to be born on Christmas day.
The boy looked in the infant’s eyes
And in his heart he knew
The babe would be a carpenter
He’d be a shepherd too.
Told in gentle rhyme and illustrated with Ashley Bryan’s enormous talent, this is a picture book that captures the reason for the season in all its wonder and beauty. Who Built the Stable? is a celebration of Christmas, of the kindness of children, and of the new hope born with each new baby.
Ashley Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night, and he has shared the joy of song with children ever since. A beloved illustrator, he has been the recipient of the Coretta Scott King—Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award; he has also been a May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer, a Coretta Scott King Award winner, and the recipient of countless other awards and recognitions. He lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine, where he can often be found with a cluster of children, all singing.
* "A child built the stable./ A little shepherd boy/ Apprenticed as a carpenter/ In his father’s employ” is Bryan’s (All Things Bright and Beautiful) answer to the title’s question. Told in rhyming verse, this touching take on the classic nativity story finds the young carpenter seeing himself in the newborn. (“in his heart he knew:/ The babe would be a carpenter./ He’d be a shepherd too”). Bryan wields tempera and acrylic in strong strokes to evoke Bethlehem, (“A rich and verdant land”) with saturated shades of primary and secondary colors, lively expressions on human and animal faces, and sweeping lines to create the impression of movement. Pleasing to the eye and to the ear. Ages 4–8."
--Publishers Weekly, *STAR
* "Bryan’s Christmas offering combines a poignant poem about a shepherd boy who builds his own stable with exuberant paintings in a masterful melding of rhythmic text and dazzling art. His illustrations, in vibrant, glowing hues, fairly leap off the page with swirls of color in stained-glass tones lit by sunshine or starlight. Striped borders frame double-page spreads showing layered scenes of the carpentry shop, the stable and the surrounding countryside, a place of lush plants and huge trees. The boy who builds the stable serves as a shepherd, caring for the family’s animals, but he is also a beginning carpenter, apprenticed to his father. The boy builds the stable himself and takes care of the animals there each morning and evening. When he sees Mary and Joseph outside at night with no place to sleep, the boy asks if they need help and offers them his stable. He sweeps the floor, puts fresh hay in the manger, provides a blanket and water and leaves his dog behind to watch over the sleeping couple. At dawn, the boy meets the new baby, proclaiming that this child will also be both a carpenter and a shepherd. Bryan’s Bethlehem, a “rich and verdant land,” seems an enchanted place where something mysterious and wonderful could happen, especially with a huge, twirling star illuminating the night sky.
--"Kirkus Reviews, *STAR USANKCO -
"Bryan first thought of the titular question while riding through the hills of Africa. He imagined that the bumpy road was similiar to the one that Mary might have traveled on her way to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. This beautifully written poem answers the question by stating that “A child built the stable./A little shepherd boy/Apprenticed as a carpenter/In his father’s employ.” When Mary and Joseph are turned away from other places, the little shepherd offers to shelter them. The prose is matched perfectly with Bryan’s vibrant tempera and acrylic illustrations. The shepherd boy, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are depicted with warm brown skin tones set against a rainbow of colors. Each spread has a border to highlight the resplendent artwork and text at the bottom of each page. The entire poem is reprinted on the last spread. A welcome addition for all collections."
SLJ, October 2012
Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum/S&S,
$16.99 hardcover, 9781442409347, 40p., ages 4-8, October 2, 2012)
Poet and artist Ashley Bryan (Beautiful Blackbird) shifts the nativity
story to a child's eye-view with this moving tale of a boy shepherd and
carpenter who invites Mary and Joseph to take shelter in the stable he
built. Tempura and acrylic illustrations resemble watercolors as they
evoke the feeling of stained glass, and the characters' faces reflect
the citizenry of Egypt and the Middle East through which the Holy Family
traveled. Exquisite. --Jennifer M. Brown