Review: Once Upon A Silent Night written by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Katie Hickey

Cover illustration by Katie Hickey, to be published by Bloomsbury on 11th November 2021

This beautiful retelling of the Nativity story is inspired by the medieval Christmas carol ‘The Friendly Beasts’ in which the stable animals recount their parts in the story of Jesus’ birth.

In this picturebook, the extraordinarily gorgeous artwork by Katie Hickey accompanies Dawn Casey’s simple, rhyming text. The combination draws you into the story from the opening spread. Here, woodland creatures look across a snow covered landscape rendered in a palette of warm blues and pinks. Their gaze is focussed on a small wooden stable, from which a golden glow shines above the half-door.

Once upon a silent night,

a stable stood.

A star shone bright.

As the heavily pregnant woman and her husband arrive, followed by a donkey, they are dressed in contemporary winter clothing; you can almost feel the texture of the woman’s Scandi-style, woollen jumper. She wonders who will welcome her baby, and is answered over the subsequent pages of the book by each of the stable animals, their faces shining with joy.

I love the way that the natural world and the supernatural, in the form of angels, have been seamlessly combined in this addition to the Nativity canon. Although I have read this as an e-book, I believe that it will be published in hardback and it will make a treasured gift for young children, even the end papers have been produced with great care and attention. I think that it will be a very popular addition to the Christmas story collections of nurseries, preschools, Early Years and Key Stage 1 classrooms where the rhythmic text will be memorised and the illustrations pored over repeatedly.

I am grateful to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for allowing me access to an electronic proof copy of Once Upon A Silent Night, which will be published on 11th November 2021.

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