‘The Lion, the Unicorn and Me‘ by Jeanette Winterson, illustrated by Rosalind MacCurrach (published by Scholastic)
This book is an enchanting retelling of the Nativity from the perspective of the donkey who carries Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Winterson’s prose is beautiful and manages to simultaneously be easy to read whilst reminiscent of the language used in stories that my granny used to read me from her own childhood.
The very first line pulls you right into the action, “Before it happened, an angel lined up all the animals – every one, of every kind, because this angel had the full list left over from the Ark.” As we later discover, the angel is selecting who will take Mary and Joseph on their most significant journey and the donkey is chosen for the job over the strong lion and the mysterious unicorn because he can help the future King of the World carry his burdens. Thus begins his greatest assignment yet.
I’m sure there is no need for me to explain how this story pans out, but Winterson makes the events of that fateful night seem fresh and at times even injects some dry wit, while never detracting from the importance of the plot. The donkey’s reaction to the birth of Jesus is just wonderful, as is the aftermath of his brush with the angels.
Having never heard of Rosalind MacCurrach before, I will now be keeping my eyes peeled for more of her work as the illustrations are brilliant – especially those showing Jesus’ birth and highlighting the main event with gold foil touches.
The only word of caution I would give with this is that there are a couple of bits that have made me think hard about whether to share this with C and H (four and two years old, respectively) yet. There is a reference to virgins, for example, and I know that both boys would ask about the word but I’m not sure I’m ready for that discussion with them yet. Maybe that’s just me, maybe I should leave out the sentence (it wouldn’t really affect this version of the story) but as I haven’t answered those questions for myself yet, I haven’t shared it with them.
Regardless of that, I certainly *will* share this with them at some point… if they can tear it away from me 😉