Sunday, 6 November 2011

Preparing for Advent: Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake

Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake are among Britain's most best-loved children's authors, so On Angel Wings, a retelling of the Christmas story by Morpurgo with illustrations by Blake, is a pretty surefire winner.

This short book tells the story of the shepherd boy who is left behind to watch over the sheep while the rest of the shepherds travel to Bethlehem to visit the infant Jesus. However, when Gabriel returns for him he becomes the first visitor at the stable and the first to give a gift. It's a charming and thought-provoking take on the original and one that I think I'll be reading to my Year 7s (11-year olds) in the last lesson before the Christmas holiday.

Blake's pictures, which will be familiar to anyone who has read Roald Dahl's books even if they haven't come across Blake's own wonderful books, complement the text as well as you would imagine and there's even a dramatised version coming up at the National Theatre on 21st December.

My only quibble, as with so many modern books that deal with angels, is that familiarity too easily replaces awe: "I'm sorry to drop in on you unexpectedly like this," are Gabriel's first words to the shepherds. But I'll try not to quibble too much. On Angel Wings is a welcome book for anyone looking for a good book for their children or their students for Christmas.

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