Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"The Little Drummer Boy" illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

You probably know the Christmas song "The Little Drummer Boy" and its story of the Wise Men inviting a little boy to go with them to find and worship baby Jesus.  There are plenty of different children's book versions of the song, but in my opinion, this is the best.

These illustrations by Ezra Jack Keats are splendid.  Each one spreads across two pages, giving lots of room for action and detail.  The artwork has a different feel from most of his other books, such as The Snowy Day -- they remind me a little of Eastern Orthodox religious artwork, in a way.  I also love that he doesn't stick with the tradition of there being three Wise Men -- the Bible doesn't specify a number, and Keats pictures five, all with colorful, rich clothing and headwear.

In contrast to the rich Wise Men, the Little Drummer Boy is dressed very simply, as befits his stated status as "a poor boy."

I love this picture of just baby Jesus' little hand reaching out from his bed.  Another picture of him shows him sitting on Mary's lap, and he's not at all a newborn, which tallies with the Bible's account that the Wise Men arrived when he was a toddler, not a newborn.

My favorite pictures in this book are the three done in silhouette.  I especially love this one of the Wise Men approaching -- it's the first look we get of them, and they're so mysterious and alluring, and the colors are just breathtaking.  They seem to have some assistants along as well, they're not just wandering around unassisted.

This is one of Mercedes' favorite books, and she asks to have it read before bed more than any other, all year 'round.  She calls it "the rum-pum-pum book," and we actually have two copies, the paperback shown here, and also a board book version.

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