Today I’m excited to share with you a new children’s book: Ishmael: The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem. As a mom of toddlers I am always interested in good children’s books. And as someone who enjoys giving books as gifts, I’m always on the lookout for entertaining stories with exceptional illustrations that would make great gifts. When I received Ishmael I couldn’t wait to peruse it and share it with my boys.
Described as “a beautiful Christmas story of peace and reconciliation,” Ishmael was originally written in French by Etienne Lelièvre and translated in this new edition by Janet Chevrier. It is a fictional account of the birth of Christ from the perspective of Ishmael, a young shepherd who has traveled to Bethlehem with his family for the census. Ishmael is not a Jew and doesn’t know that he is coming to the City of David, where the Messiah is prophesied to come from. As the story progresses, Ishmael learns more about the teachings of the Jews and the author weaves these lessons into the story seamlessly, including various characters quoting passages from the Old Testament.
Although it is fiction, there are details in the story that are obviously well researched. I especially liked that many of the families that had traveled to Bethlehem, including Joseph and Mary, found shelter in the grottos, or caves, on the outskirts of the village. Joseph and Mary are often depicted as being in a barn of sorts, when in reality these little grottos on the hillsides were more realistic for this time period. I appreciated this attention to historical accuracy.
At first I was worried that the book might be too long for my boys. The text appeared lengthy compared to most books my boys and I read together. However, they surprised me and really enjoyed listening to the story and studying the accompanying illustrations. The story is well told and has several layers so that older children will also enjoy the story and the illustrations. I would consider it a great read-aloud book for families no matter the ages of your children.
Initially, the beautiful illustrations were what captured my attention, leading my 3 year old twins and I to sit down with the book just to flip the pages and take in the art work. The colors are bright and there are plenty of little details for curious young eyes. Every page is adorned with a gorgeous illustration along with intricate gold leaf detailing around the edges of most text pages and even the front and back covers. I loved how even the inside of the covers was used for illustrations and additional material.
If you are looking for a good book to add to your Christmas book collection, I highly recommend this one for both the story and the illustrations. I already have it in mind as a gift for several families I know. Ishmael is published by Magnificat and Ignatius Press and retails for $14.99, although there is a web sale price at this time for $12.74. You can purchase this gorgeous children’s book from Ignatius Press.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.