Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Sunday, December 19, 2010


ANGELA AND THE BABY JESUS (best for ages 8 and up).
This unique book by Frank McCourt, has been printed in two editions by different publishers and illustrators, in order to offer an adult and child's adaptation of the same text. Inspired by his own mother's childhood experience, McCourt's story is set in Ireland, around 1912.  (The friend who recommended this book to me, reads it to her children in an Irish brogue!)

The tale begins when six-year-old Angela, the youngest child in her Irish-Catholic family, sees the baby Jesus naked, cold and alone in her church's Nativity creche and decides to take him home in order to wrap him in a warm blanket. What ensues on her journey home is quite humorous. Later, her older brother Pat blurts out her secret to the family, while their whole parish wonders with sadness and shock: who stole the Baby Jesus? You'll love how Angela and her brother's sibling rivalry tensions are resolved in a very satisfying and poignant ending.

I found the two artists' styles and interpretations in bringing this story to life fascinating.  You can read their perspectives (reprinted from AMAZON) in their own words below:

Loren Long on the Fireside Scene from Angela and the Baby Jesus (adult version):
Usually little Angela would want to be right in the middle of the action as the family sits by the fire and talks. But not this time--she has a secret upstairs.
At this point in the story, I'm giving the reader a seat behind the family in the shadows away from the fire. At the same time we, the readers, know about Angela's secret in the bedroom upstairs and we see her hanging back from the others, sneaking peeks up the staircase. We can see that she has something more important on her mind than her family's chattering.

In my visual interpretation of Angela and the Baby Jesus, I wanted to tap into Frank McCourt's sophisticated blend of gritty realism and subtle humor. For this reason, I specifically chose a limited color palette. I worked with acrylics on canvas and tried to keep the paintings a bit edgy and raw.

Choosing images came naturally when working on this story. I was taken with the balance of reverence, innocence, and humor in Frank’s text and I simply tried to come up with creative ways to portray these elements in a subtle but hopefully profound way. --Loren Long

Raul Colon on the Fireside Scene from Angela and the Baby Jesus (child version):
This image for Frank McCourt's Angela and the Baby Jesus picture book came to me just by thinking of a warm fireplace on a cold night.

In this particular scene the family sits around the fire to chat after tea. Angela's little brother is giving up the secret that the "Baby Jesus" is in the bed upstairs. Angela shows a bit of worry in her face, since she quietly snuck the "baby" into the house. Surely she'll be in trouble now.

Throughout the story I hardly show any of the adult faces, focusing mainly on the children's world. Hence, Mother's back is turned toward us. I also cut off the little brother's face by having Mother's turn-of-the-century hairdo get in the way (A little thing I learned from the great artist Degas.) It gives the scene intimacy, as if the viewer is there taking a snapshot with his camera. All in all a fun and rewarding book to illustrate. It was an honor to turn McCourt's words into actual pictures. --Raul Colon

Frank McCourt died in 2009. You can listen to this interview with the author about his book...

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