Book Review: M is for Manger, by Crystal Bowman & Teri McKinley, pictures by Claire Keay

M is for MangerMother and daughter Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley have collaborated with artist Claire Keay in creating a children’s alphabet book based on the story of Jesus’ birth as recorded in the gospel of Luke. The beauty I find in M is for Manger is in its format. Every letter (including illustration) is on the left page of the open book; on the right is a small illustration on top, four lines of rhyming poetry telling the story (including the word beginning with the relevant letter clearly visible), and a verse from Luke at the bottom (the authors must choose from an array of translations in order to fit the alphabet as best they can, though they primarily use the New Living Translation). Some may find this a bit unwieldy for reading to children, but I think it’s best to approach it in a number of ways that best suits the child and setting. One may simply go through the alphabet (some pictures, like “H is for Holy,” aren’t going to make as much sense without explanation), read the poetry by itself, or even just go through the Scriptures. If it was all read and explained at once, I do think it will lose a lot of connection and particularly detract from the story written as poetry.

I’m a fan of watercolors, and am particularly fond of this medium for illustrations in children’s books. So, kudos to Keay for her soft and “easy on the eyes” pictures!

Now, how does one find an “X” and “Z” in the story of Jesus’ birth? You don’t, so you make it up! Given the purpose of the book, I don’t feel so cheated when “Expected” is used for “X” and “Zillions” (of stars) is used for “Z.” It’ll just take a little bit of explaining on the adult’s part. Another means of expressing some letters of the alphabet is by weaving humanity into the story by further demonstrating the importance of Jesus’ birth for all people—always a good thing!

Overall, I think it’s a cute little book that’s not overtly “Christmas” (thankfully, the authors don’t include any of the controversial “nativity scene” stuff that isn’t even found in the birth passages, though I’d still make the manger out of stone rather than wood ;)). I can see this being used in an out of season, at home and in “Sunday school” classes.


*This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I offered or provided any compensation.