Cynthia Cotten, Virginia Childrens Author, fiction and poetry

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Cynthia Cotten, Vermont childrens author, This is the Stable

Cover art copyright
2006 Delana Bettoli

A picture book illustrated by Delana Bettoli, published by Henry Holt & Company, 2006.

  • Honor Book (picture books): Cynsational Books of 2006 -- Cynthia Leitich Smith's "cynsations"

  • Kirkus Reviews starred review

  • Kansas State Reading Circle, 2007

  • Paterson Poetry Prize, 2007

This is the stable, dusty and brown, in a quiet corner of Bethlehem town.

Wondrous things are happening in this humble little stable. The animals are gathering. Shepherds and wise men and angels are coming from afar. All of them are flocking to see the Christ child, born this night in Bethlehem.

In lyrical verses and luminous illustrations, this is a retelling of the Nativity that will be treasured for Christmases to come.

"Readers of all ages will want to come to this stable.They will come with reverence, awe, as they read the quiet poetic text and enter a world of luminous, lovingly executed paintings. THIS IS THE STABLE to come to--to rejoice in==to witness the true meaning of Christmas." --Lee Bennett Hopkins

From the Reviewers

Publishers Weekly

Rhyming couplets retell the Nativity story, introducing a "baby boy, who cooed and cried/ and looked around with eyes so wide" born in "the stable dusty and brown,/ in a quiet corner of Bethlehem town." Bettoli's extensive palette and spiritual imagery capture stars, angels and birds overseeing the happy proceedings from changeable pink, purple and blue evening skies. The artwork's borders and a multicultural cast add visual depth and interest. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Children's Literature

In the familiar rhythm of "This is the house that Jack built," the Christmas story is retold in rhyme that uses the refrain, "the quiet stable, dusty and brown." Children will enjoy pointing to the animals while parents will appreciate the peace and tranquility that pervade this lovely retelling of the story.

School Library Journal

PreS-K-This lovely picture book combines beautiful artwork and a seamless, thoughtful "The house that Jack built" style to tell the story of the Nativity. The rhyme is sweet but never forced. Bettoli uses a mixture of pastels, primary colors, and earth tones to create pictures that are bright and imbued with fanciful elements such as winglike clouds and a face in the star of Bethlehem. A sense of place is well established by sand dunes, desert shrubs, and palm trees. The variety of animals and the multiethnic cast of people and angels are all rendered with lifelike energy and expression. A gentle, comforting selection.-Linda Israelson, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

With a gentle, perfectly rhyming text, this cumulative tale presents the Nativity story in a beautifully illustrated version just right for younger children. The patterned text introduces each component of the Nativity scene, always returning to the soothing refrain of "the quiet stable, dusty and brown." The poetic words have the rhythmic, repetitive cadences of a Christmas carol, and in fact, the text can be sung to the traditional English carol, "The Friendly Beasts." Bettoli's mixed-media paintings feature swirling lines, bright flowers and patterned borders. Mary and Joseph clearly come from the Middle East, and the Three Wise Men are of three different ethnicities. Her interpretation includes many birds and the subtle images of feathered wings, with the final spread presenting the angel host gathered over Bethlehem and the edge of the midnight-blue sky flowing off the page like a great bird. Children will be drawn to the appealing cover showing the dusty, brown stable with Mary and Joseph approaching. Against a background of flying birds and feathery wings, the title stands out in huge, shiny red letters, inviting readers inside. (Picture book. 2-8)


This Is the Stable is one of those quiet and humble books that sneaks up on you with its meaningful verse and expressive illustrations. The rhyme builds upon itself, reiterating Jesus' birth place in a ''stable, dusty and brown'' and the coming of the angels, shepherds and kings. It's a story we've heard many times over, retold here with simple grace. The stunningly magical illustrations are filled with peace and reverence.

Ingram Library Services

While she follows the typical rhythm of a cumulative tale ("This is the star whose light shone down/ on the quiet stable, dusty and brown."), Cotton repeats only the last line in each set so that the text remains fresh throughout. Pointing to the manger, the animals, and the other traditional elements in turn, this lovely book is simple enough for preschoolers but has enough detail for 6-year-olds. Bettoli's deep, vivid palate soothes or excites as each scene unfolds. This is a terrific basic Christmas book.

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