Poetry Friday: Carol of the Brown King

The new PaperTigers issue is all about “religious diversity in relation to end-of-the-year celebrations.”  For Christians, the end of the year is about celebrating the advent of the birth of Jesus Christ.  In Carol of the Brown King: Nativity Poems by Langston Hughes, the story is written about in six poems, beautifully and colorfully illustrated by Ashley Bryan.  In the title poem, Hughes brings out both the paradoxically particular and universal appeal in worshipping the Christ child by identifying one of the Wise Men as “dark like me–/Part of His/Nativity.”   In “Shepherd’s Song at Christmas” a little shepherd boy contemplates the kinds of gifts he can bring to the “King in the Manger”  and settles on this one:

I will bring my heart
And give my heart to Him.
I will give my heart
To the Manger.

Ashley Bryan’s illustrations are rich and colorful depictions of the nativity.  Bryan, who is known for his interest in the illustration of African American spirituals and poetry, has featured African-Americans as Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus,  and as the shepherd boy and one of the Magi in this book.  His illustrations contextualize the story in a way that departs from the traditional depictions of these Biblical figures and also creates points of identification for African Americans to this story.  By reading and viewing a book like Carol of the Brown King,  a child can have a wider, richer view of the Incarnation.

How do you tell the story of Christmas to your children?  What books do you like to read to them at this time of year?  What events do you like to take them to?  Do drop us a line at PaperTigers and share with us some of your holiday reading treasures.

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.


5 Responses to “Poetry Friday: Carol of the Brown King”

  1. Andromeda Jazmon Says:

    I will definitely look for this fabulous book! I can’t wait to read it to my kids. I am enjoying reading “This is the Manger” by Cynthia Cotten and illustrated by Delana Bettoli. It is a fabulous Nativity story picture book featuring a multi-ethinic cast of characters. Really gorgeous, bright pastels!

  2. BabetteR Says:

    For families who celebrate a secular Christmas (exclusively or in addition to their other celebrations), Rachel Isadora’s new interpretation of “The Night Before Christmas” gives a richer, wider view of the world as well. The poem is unaltered, but the collage illustrations show a Santa with dark skin and dreadlocks visiting a village that looks like it might be in Africa. It sounds gimmicky but it is so creative, clever, and well done, that it works! It’s my favorite now over all the Victorian versions. I hope it becomes a classic.

  3. Sally Says:

    Andromeda, I must check out your suggestion and see if our library has it. And Babette, I’d also love to track down Isadora’s interpretation of The Night Before Christmas; it sounds cool. I’m all for diversity of interpretation!

  4. Marjorie Says:

    yes, I’ll be looking out for all three books – thank you, all!

  5. Book Chook Says:

    My favourite is still Dick Bruna’s The Christmas Story. My kindergarten classes loved the simple illustrations. I loved that I could use it as the basis for one of those dreaded end-of-year Nativity plays!