Outgoing BSA Service Director Rachel Everard reviews a new children's nativity book (for 3-8 year-olds) by Susanne T. Schroder.
Looking for the ideal Christmas gift for a young child? Look no further — ‘The Robin’s First Christmas’ is the perfect present for a child aged three to eight, who I hope will find the book as delightful and charming as I did.
With a Christian nativity theme, the book tells the story of how the robin came by his inimitable red breast. Shunned and shushed by the other bigger birds because of his small stature and plain looks, the robin stops singing until one cold winter, when he happens by chance upon a certain stable with a certain baby lying within. As the fire dies down during the night, baby Jesus is at an increasing risk of hypothermia, so the little bird saves the day by fetching twigs to feed the fire. In reward for this service, he is given a splash of colour on his breast which encourages him once again to sing his sweet song.
The robin also happens to have a stammer but this detail is rather incidental — but it’s rather refreshing that the stammer is not the focus of the story, just a minor detail and not the cause of the stigma the robin experiences at the hands, or should I say claws, of the other birds.
Written in verse and beautifully illustrated, the book quickly draws the reader in. The vocabulary is carefully chosen for a young child to access and the repetition will help beginner readers to develop their literacy skills.
This is a wonderfully heart-warming and humorous tale of courage and kindness, with the strong message of daring to be yourself, no matter how others may judge you.
From the author
This book is part of Susanne T. Schroder's 'Unlikely Heroes' series of Christmas picture books for 3+ years, that tells the story of Christmas from the perspective of several different characters. Here she tells us how the decision came about to make this book's main character stammer.
"Just before I came to the end of writing (and re-writing — it's taken me a long time) this story, the main character, who also narrates most of the book, developed a stammer. Don't ask me why or how, though I think it might have had something to do with me playing around with the rhythm and the rhyme.
This was something I didn't think that much about at first. Once I'd read the story to a few people, however, I soon realised it was going to be an issue. Some thought the way I'd done it sounded silly; others worried I might offend, but most thought that without an introduction or an explanation it should be saved for a separate story that could do it justice.
So I tried taking the stammer out but the younger children I'd previously read it to most certainly did not want me to. I'm not sure why but I had to agree — why can't the robin be allowed to just have a stammer? Without an explanation, without any kind of story behind it?
Now I've made my choice I love my bold, brave little robin. I love that he has a stammer with no explanation and I hope you'll love him too."