“The First Christmas” is a 24-page work of art from the polish author and artist Jan Pienkowski. It’s a uniquely unorthodox retelling of the Nativity that brings to life the story of the very first Christmas. The text is taken from the King James Version of the Bible and is authoritative and lyrical.
Jan’s scenes may be perceived by some as unfaithful to the prevailing perception of the time and location surrounding the Nativity, but it’s a stylised interpretation that is bold and just so. From Angel Gabriel’s annunciation to the Virgin Mary who is wearing an apron whilst hanging clothes in the back yard on a clothesline, to Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt from a thunderstruck medieval castle straight out of Harry Potter, and the manger in a pine forest surrounded by squirrels and deers could be a scene from Snow White.
Jan’s deceptively simple silhouettes are almost a puzzle for the imagination to solve. Their minimalist colour palette and lack of detail draw the reader into the page to fill in the outlines for themself. The dramatic design of this book has a whimsical quality with its detailed page embellishments, ornate drop caps and flourishes.
Jan Pienkowski, the twice recipient of Kate Greenaway Medal for illustrations and creator of more than 140 books, has illustrated “The First Christmas” with his signature silhouetted style that he has mastered and used to great effect in many other books. Stark and solid against the colourful vibrant background are the black silhouette scenes – as dramatic as the Nativity story they illustrate. Praised as “a rich and memorable Christmas story” where “the glory of the verse is matched by the exquisite illustrations” this visual interpretation is Pienkowski’s work of art that will impress readers of all ages.
Over the years I have seen too many illustrated Nativity books, but only a few stayed with me and still live in my box of Christmas books. Jan Pienkowski’s “The First Christmas” is one such keeper for the appeal of its design and illustration are an ultimate visual feast, which I indulge in year after year.
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 &  School Library Journal and The Baltimore Sun reviews (extracts printed on the back cover of the above edition of “The First Christmas”)