More in Book Reviewer Gaffes, Biblical Division


By Neal Comment

small-camel-bookjacket.jpgAll the recent talk of nonexistent bodies in the freezer reminded Wendy McClure of another recent incident where the reviewer’s facts weren’t in order, and as she notes, “this is the only one with a CUTE ANTHROPROMORPHIC BABY CAMEL.” In discussing Small Camel Follows the Star, a new Christmas-themed picture book, PW accused author Rachel W.N. Brown of setting down a “revisionist Nativity” with a “puzzling timetable,” because in her version, the wise men and their retinue spend months in the desert before they meet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Nazareth, rather than the stables of Bethlehem.

In Brown’s defense, McClure (an editor at Albert Whitman, the book’s publisher) points out that the timeline of Jesus’ brith in the Gospel of Matthew is not as compressed as the version popularized in movies. The wise men showed up in Jerusalem and had their audience with Herod “about the time” of Jesus’ birth, and Matthew 2:11 specifically states that “they entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were,” the key words being “house” rather than “manger” and “child” rather than “baby.” (This is why Herod ordered the death of every male infant under the age of two in Bethlehem; he only had an approximate sense of when the prophesied messiah was born.) “We’ve heard from a lot of booksellers and people who are glad to see a picture book that goes by the Biblical account,” she says. “Seems a little strange for a PW reviewer to call a children’s book ‘revisionist’ without stopping to consider that a story that’s been told for 2,000 years might, you know, have a few variations.” But, she assured me, they’re not angry about the error in the review; “we just hope we can make it known that we weren’t being revisionist!”