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Christian Children's Books for Christmas: The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
Author Max Lucado
Max Lucado's website features uplifting stories and thoughts from his teaching ministry in the San Antonio-based church where he is a pastor.
The Crippled Lamb by popular Christian author Max Lucado and artist and illustrator Liz Bonham is one Christian picture book that truly shines on its own merits as a superbly-told story. Popular Texas pastor and writer Max Lucado tells an interesting, poignant, and personable story about a a little lamb named Joshua who is born with a birth defect. Joshua (also called Josh in the story), with his lame leg, is the crippled lamb, and is unable to run and jump and play with the other sheep in the flock.
Joshua feels "left out and sad," but he has the friendship of a brown cow named Abigail, who keeps him company and tells him stories about the stars. On the hillside, Abigail tells him "Don't be sad, little Josh, God has a special place for those who feel left out." When the sheep are moved to another pasture, Joshua feels more left out than ever, because even the shepherds tell him he isn't fit to make the journey. Dejectedly, Josh goes to wait for the shepherds in the stable. That night, he is joined by Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her newborn Babe. Josh warms the baby with his wool, and finds his rightful place at Jesus' side, where he stands in awe of the Christ child.
Over a million copies of The Crippled Lamb have been published in multiple languages, and the book has been made into a DVD and audiotape. The book is still very popular, no doubt for its timeless message and unique approach to the nativity story.
Thoughts About Lucado's Storytelling
It isn't difficult to like this original retelling of the nativity story. Max Lucado draws upon the sacred story of the nativity from the New Testament, and uses a familiar image from Christ's parables (the parable of the lost sheep), and blends the two stories without altering or taking away from the Biblical stories that he used for inspiration.
The story of the crippled lamb doesn't use heavy-handed anthropomorphism either. In other words, the characters aren't annoyingly human. Josh the lamb's thoughts aren't deeply soul-searching. He doesn't want to know the meaning of life or ask why he has been burdened with being different. He merely expresses grief over not fitting in. His friend Abigail acts almost like a surrogate mother, something that often happens on farms and ranches--an animal adopts another as its own, even when they aren't even the same breed. These details created believable and appealing characters that were presented in a very simple and straightforward style. As the story draws to its conclusion, the simple and straightforward storytelling style lends a power to the climactic moment in the story, and a lovell spirit of reverence to the nativity scene.
This story could be read to a three or four year old, but still holds some important allegorical truths for an older audience who is seeking greater inspiration from this story. On a deeper level, aren't we all like the little lamb in the story? We grope our way through life, crippled by our sins and griefs. But standing by Christ's side, he answers our prayers and reveals a greater purpose, one we probably didn't know we could fulfill. Through Christ we are made whole. Of all the Max Lucado storybooks I have read, I think this one is his masterpiece.
Artwork by Liz Bonham
The illustrations in The Crippled Lamb are an attractive addition to a well-told Christmas story. At the time the story was first published, Lucado had been writing children's books for only a few years and was relatively unknown. His choice (or perhaps his publisher's choice at Thomas Nelson books) was a great stylistic pairing. Liz Bonham's oil on canvas pictures strike a balance between realistic detail and impressionistic fancy that fit the straightforward prose style of the story. Bonham's animals are more well-styled than the people she depicts, the focus in the story is on the animals, so I think that's ok. I especially like the image of Josh the little lamb licking the fingers of the infant Jesus who is resting in the fresh hay of the feed box. The image is an endearing personal touch that enhances and strengthens the climactic moments in this story.
Texas artist Liz Bonham produced the artwork for this book. It was first published in 1994. Liz Bonham won the Gold Medallion Book Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers' Association in 1995. Her artwork can be viewed at her website, where she has a representative collection. A versatile artist, Bonham has produced a series of American Western-themed landscape and rodeo paintings and a charming collection of still life pictures featuring Texas wildflowers. Anyone who has lived in Texas will recognize the influence of the Texas countryside and culture on this Texas' artist's work. In addition to this work, Bonham has illustrated a few other children's books, including The King Without a Shadow by R.C. Sproul Sr. and Timeless Moments, a story by Alton Howard.
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© 2009 Carolyn Augustine