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A Northern Nativity: Christmas dreams of a prairie boy    by William Kurelek order for
Northern Nativity
by William Kurelek
Order:  USA  Can
Tundra, 1977 (1976)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Twelve-year-old William lives on a prairie farm during the Depression in the 1930s, when times were hard. He sings carols and studies history and geography in school, and for twenty December nights he dreams of the Nativity. In each dream he sees Mary and Joseph seeking shelter with the baby Jesus in a different modern time and place. All his dreams start and end with the questions 'If it happened there, why not here? If it happened then, why not now?'

Through young William's dreams we see his visions of the Nativity in humble Canadian surroundings that include an Eskimo igloo, an Indian trapper's hut, a filling station garage, a boxcar, a construction site office, high mountain country of the Rockies, Niagara Falls, an Atlantic fishing hut, and the woods across the river from the Houses of Parliament. Not surprisingly, since the author is a painter, the illustrations are lovely, and the boy's reactions and musings give food for thought and for discussion, as when he calls out at the Falls 'You're missing the Creator for the creation ...'.

It's an inclusive picture book; the holy family appear to all cultures and as all of them as well - Eskimo and Indian, white and black. On the last night, William dreams that he is no more ready to help than many of the people in his dreams, but is told that the holy family will return when he is ready. A Northern Nativity is not a picture book for very young readers, but is a story to share amongst all family members. Use it to explore the meaning of Christmas, and at the same time enjoy a painter's perspective on Canada, together.

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