Ancient legends tell us that for one hour on Christmas Eve, animals are given the gift of speech. If we could have heard the animals on that very first Christmas Eve, what do you think they would have said?
From the discovery of something in Cow's hay, to the realization of what--or who-- it is, Bethlehem Barn is a light-hearted, fun retelling of that very first Christmas from the animals' point of view.
"The animals in the barn at the first Christmas speak their minds in this debut picture book that provides a retelling of the traditional Christian story....Westgate-Silva's sense of humor makes the retelling enjoyable--and perhaps a good choice to adapt for a church Christmas pageant. The animals' varying voices are distinct at first; as the tale becomes more serious, they sound closer to Scripture than silliness. Veteran illustrator Piwowarski captures the comedy of the animals in his textured, digital paintings while offering respectful depictions of the Holy Family. The outlines of camels on the last page give a clue to the next part of the story. A clever and amusing animal tale that's well suited for Sunday school audiences." --Kirkus Reviews
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Story ideas are everywhere. This one came from church. About eleven years ago, during a Christmas Eve sermon, the minister referenced the ancient legend that became the foundation for this story: for one hour on Christmas Eve, animals are given the gift of speech. That was all I needed; my mind was off and running. What would they have said on that very first Christmas Eve? How would the cow have felt when she realized a baby was in her food trough? What would she have said? How would her animal friends have reacted? How would they know who the baby was?
I couldn't tell you about the rest of that sermon, even if you had asked me that night, because story ideas were vying for my attention. Some ideas are short lived, while others refuse to leave. This one fell into the latter category. After reaching out to the minister and doing some research, I wasn't able to find the origins of the legend, only that it existed. However, I did learn that the animals believed to be present at the nativity vary, based on culture and location across the globe, and that legends exist about some of these animals and their roles on Christmas Eve. These legends are intriguing as well, and some ideas for further exploration can be found in the free downloadable activity guides on this website.
After working with an agent and several attempts to have my story published, life took over and the manuscript went into a file in my desk drawer. I pulled it out last winter and fell in love with playful Donkey, frantic Chicken, and hungry Cow all over again. Thanks to the encouragement of friends--Lyn (who told me to do this eleven years ago) and Pam--and the support of my family, I'm thrilled to see Bethlehem Barn illustrated and brought to life.
I hope, as you read it to your little ones, that it brings joy and the true spirit of Christmas into your homes and hearts.