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The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola
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The Friendly Beasts

by Tomie dePaola

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The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie dePaola. Library section: 11 A: Pre-K, Religion and Character-building. This lovely version of the carol with illustrations done in Tomie’s earlier artistic style is perfect for pre-K tots. And of course, you MUST sing this as you read or else it isn’t nearly as fun. Your kids will love you for it. In this carol, each animal tells how she contributed to Jesus’ birth. As each animal gives her remarks, Tomie shows the animal in a full side view so a toddler can learn to identify the animals – donkey, cow, sheep and doves.
Those familiar with the Bible will recognize the Annunciation in a narrow strip along the top of the front cover, where the angel announces to Mary that she will give birth to God’s son. The Annunciation was a popular subject for Renaissance artists if you recall your Art History survey course in college. Point this out to your child and tell them what is happening in the scene. This only adds to the book’s effectiveness and charm. This book alone won an American Library Association Notable Book Award, a Booklist Reviewer’s Choice, Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Book, and American Bookseller Pick of the Lists. That’s Tomie – consistent excellence in writing and illustration. I can’t imagine the world of children’s literature without Tomie dePaola. He leads the pack.
I had a small Golden book version of this carol that I kept for the Christmas season for my kids. We’d sing it together as we looked at the pictures. Being a ham, I would do animal voices– the donkey, cow, sheep, etc. I’d throw in a hee-haw, moo, baa, and coo. The kids loved it. I also created a little tradition in our house. After every Epiphany I’d put our Christmas books away until the following Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving afternoon, the kids stuffed with turkey, would get out the Christmas books for the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons, and immediately begin to read them all, enjoying them once again as if they were new. Actually they were more like old beloved friends. I’m sure you also have favorite Christmas books from your childhood. This is a nice tradition to start in your family too. It makes Christmas books special and helps your child learn about the seasons of the church year. ( )
  Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Aug 26, 2011 |
The animals of the stable are often the focus of children’s Christmas picture books, possibly because children tend to love animals and because they are so lovely in illustrations. The image of the babe in the manger, humbly surrounded by gentle animals, is a memorable part of the season.

One such book that I love is Tomie dePaola’s The Friendly Beasts. I like Tomie dePaola’s illustration style for this Christmas carol, although there are many available. I believe dePaola’s simple illustrations fit the song well. He frames the carol with three boys singing, although the majority of the book illustrates the manger, the animals, and people worshiping the newborn Savior. Every other page is a two-page spread with the specific animal near the baby Jesus. When I was young, “The Friendly Beasts” was, in a way, our family Christmas carol, especially my favorite. My favorite verse is of the doves.
1 vote rebeccareid | Jan 6, 2009 |
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"The simple strains of this old Christmas melody are superbly reflected in the graceful, delicate, yet strong images that dePaola brings to the page....A Christmas remembrance to be long treasured." -- Booklist (starred review) "Beautiful." -- The Horn Book "Meticulous attention has been paid to every detail of design, color, and layout." -- School Library Journal

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In this old English Christmas carol the friendly stable beasts tell of the gifts they have given to the newborn Jesus.
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In this old English Christmas carol the friendly stable beasts tell of the gifts they have given to the newborn Jesus.

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