How Many Miles to Bethlehem.jpg

How Many Miles to Bethlehem?

Written by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Illustrated by Peter Malone

Because I didn't grow up hearing the Nativity story, I sometimes think I'm a good litmus test for whether or not a new version is affecting. I don't bring a host of childhood associations to the tale - only my aesthetics and feelings in the present. So it's with confidence that we present this collaboration between Kevin's poetry, and Peter's art. It's certainly one I can imagine as a prized family heirloom and Christmas tradition.

Visit Kevin's website at

Mary. The innkeeper. The shepherds. The king. These figures and many others link together in the tale at the very heart of Christmas, now gloriously retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Peter Malone. As fans of Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy can attest, his language is always rich, perceptive, graceful, even startling. Here he uses his poetic gifts to introduce each character of the story in turn, allowing each (even the donkey!) to speak about his or her role in the narrative, and endowing each with a voice and personality that cuts through the heft of tradition. Peter Malone complements this approach by using modern ideas of composition in paintings that glow with all the beauty and reverence of Renaissance masterpieces. The result is a fresh and stunning vision of the beloved Nativity story, and a book for families and collectors everywhere to treasure.

Reviews and Awards

⋆ “The language is both colloquial and lyrical, with the shepherds describing ‘the tent of the sky swaying, the earth’s bones shaking’ as they head toward Bethlehem. Malone’s illustrations are reminiscent of early Renaissance and medieval Eastern art in their wealth of detail and color. From the ornate patterns in the Wise Men’s robes to the sparse foliage and rocks spread over the arid land, the paintings evoke both sumptuous glory and a serene stillness.” - School Library Journal, starred review

⋆ “Each monologue segues neatly into the next, subtly introducing the next speaker; all display a keenly poetic sensibility, yet each is individual, and together they create a retelling of the Christmas story that is both down-to-earth and filled with majesty. The parade of travelers is depicted with stately pageantry in the medieval-like paintings, brilliant with color and feeling.” - The Horn Book, starred review

⋆ “This poetic retelling of the Christmas story adds drama and immediacy through the use of alternating first-person narratives. … Within just a few lines of text, each character’s distinctive voice provides a personal introduction and some element of the story that skillfully advances the plot in an unbroken dramatic arc toward a compelling concluding page that could stand alone as a poem of faith. Opulent paintings in a spectrum of jewel tones advance the dramatic quality, often through compositions that seem to capture individual characters or scenes in a play. Thoughtful design elements include a variety of perspectives and illustration size and striking midnight-blue endpapers spangled with stars and one floating feather. Though it’s a difficult task to add anything new to the multitude of Nativity stories, Crossley-Holland and Malone have succeeded. - Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Malone’s lush paintings are rife with references to traditional artistic styles—Christian iconography in the Christ Child with victory banner and lamb; formal groupings of Renaissance pedigree, meticulously detailed still-life vignettes—but the startling overhead perspective of a manger, the Madonna’s uncharacteristically cropped and unveiled hair, and the stunning vortex of the swirling, multihued angel host reflect a more modern sensibility. Although the text will be accessible to any child familiar with the Christmas story, a lightly older audience inclined to linger over the stately prose and vibrant illustration will find this title rewarding.” - Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“A mysterious, sophisticated interpretation of the Christmas story.” - Booklist

“Although readers won’t come away with an answer to the titular question, they will surely understand from Malone’s paintings that something beautiful and important happened in the tiny biblical town. … Malone’s gorgeous paintings, featuring a palette of opulent hues, intricate designs and sophisticated compositions, truly shine.” Publishers Weekly

Purchase Options
Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Fall 2004
Picture Book
ISBN: 0-439-67642-8
Price: $16.95
Trim Size: 10 1/2" x 10 1/2"
Page Count: 32
Foreign Rights: Orton Children's Books
Translation Rights: Orton Children's Books
Rights Available? yes

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