Picture Book Review: Goodnight, Manger by Laura Sassi and Jane Chapman (illus.)


Take the story of the birth of Jesus and skip to the evening when Mary is attempting to lull her (in this version) fussy baby to sleep while animals and visitors are causing various levels of chaos, and you have the premise of this hardback picture book.  Written in verse and illustrated in earthy tones, heavy on the orange, this is the most visually active bedtime storybook I have ever seen.  With the fun, rhyming text and every illustration showing motion and an often fussing or yawning baby jesus, this book is very likely to capture the attention of most young children.  Children who like to spot little things in illustrations can look for the almost constant appearance of two mice, chickens or other animals and describe their antics.

Between Laura Sassi, the writer, and Jane Chapman, the illustrator, they have created a relatable tale that is a light hearted and joyous (well, except for the fussing) version of a small portion of the Nativity story.  The dynamic illustrations and clever rhymes are refreshing and just plain fun. The only real criticism I have (well, other than the fact that Mary is having a pretty bad hair day) is the depiction of the angels.  Though they do have a nice diversity of skin tone, these are some weird, hippy-ish angels who are leaping and floating wingless in the sky, wearing star printed mumu-like tunics over striped pants.  One is bearded, some play instruments, and all look as though they are jumping on a trampoline and should be running around singing “Aquarius” while the text reads

Soon Hosannas


Rouse the little


Angels’ voices

Shout with joy,

“Meet this precious

Baby Boy!”

As an Auntie of over 28 years experience, I think this would be a great bedtime choice for the holiday season, and a fun supplement to the traditional telling of the Nativity story.  It would also make a lovely gift book and a copy will soon be making its way down to my niece and her three children, ages 3, 2, and 10 months.  Though the age range given is 4-8, I think they will really enjoy this bright and happy (despite the fussing and chaos) book.  I’ve forewarned their grandmother (my eldest sister), who loves to read aloud to them, about the joyous but oddly depicted angels…

If you prefer your Nativity story to always be serene and reverent, this is perhaps not the best choice.  However, for a bedtime book that will lend itself to a child’s enjoyment of and conversation about that same story, then I would suggest you give this book a try.  3/5 stars for well done rhyming text and dynamic illustrations.  Had the angels been depicted in a less “Godspell” way, I would have rated this as 3.5 or 4 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Goodnight, Manger written by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman | Zonderkidz, 2015 | hardback 22pgs | review copy, booklook bloggers