Childrens Book Review of The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola

by DerdriuMarriner

The bird’s-eye view emphasizes 40°-angled or straight-down perspectives from above. It is imagined in art, architecture, and photography. It is real in “The Birds of Bethlehem.”

Re-enactments and story-telling regarding the Holy Couple Joseph’s and Mary’s search for lodgings in crowded Bethlehem are popular dramatic and literary aspects for children during the year’s-end holiday season.

Performances and readings leading into the events of Dec. 24 begin as early as December 6’s remembrance of Santa Claus’s gift-giving role model, Saint Nicholas (March 15, 270 – Dec. 6, 343). They end as late as January 6’s reverence for the present-offering Wise Men Balthazar (Balat-shar-usur, King Protector), Casper (Gizbar, Treasurer), and Melchior (Melech, King; Or, Light).

It is only appropriate in the environmentally-conscious and nature-friendly world of the twenty-first century that one such storytelling format involves the wide-angle overview perfected by “The Birds of Bethlehem.”

The Journey of the Magi: 1894 oil on canvas by James Tissot (October 15, 1836 - August 8, 1902)
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota


Avian meals are spaced according to whether the particular bird feeds:

  • Earlier in the morning;
  • Early in the mid-day;
  • Late in the afternoon;
  • Later in the early evening.

Early-risers traditionally get praised in folklores worldwide for gathering the choicest foods. In The Birds of Bethlehem, they have the additional advantage of hearing the breaking news about world-changing events in the birthplace of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah’s second king, David (1040 B.C.? – 970 B.C.?). Accurately differentiated by shade, six avian couples learn of:

  • Heavenly sights;
  • Traffic patterns.

Each couple makes individual contributions to the data-gathering forays which diurnal forages become:

  • Brown and yellow about filled-up inns;
  • Green about lined-up travelers;
  • Turquoise about a stable-lodged couple.  


The angelic choirs illuminating the skies over Bethlehem for avian observers of Jesus' birth in "The Birds of Bethlehem" are now replaced by a gaily decorated Christmas tree and serene Nativity scene in Bethlehem's Manger Square.

Bethlehem, central West Bank
Bethlehem, central West Bank


Each informational tidbit contributes to the enthusiasm of all 12 songbirds for:

  • Catching the latest news;
  • Witnessing the unfolding events.  

Heavenly appearances and terrestrial reactions drive avian decisions to observe the makeshift lodgings and the young couple for themselves. According to the dark and light red-colored songbirds, an angel encourages shepherds to leave their pastures in order to rejoice in Bethlehem’s newborn baby. Per the dark and light grey-colored avian couple, the skies fill up with the sights and sounds of angelic choirs. But it is the cream- and off-white avian pair that has the honor of reporting:

  • The humble manger and stable;
  • The joyful shepherds;
  • The peaceful family of nice-mannered husband and wife and well-behaved child.


The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola

This inventive and fresh Nativity story is told from a bird's-eye view.
Tomie dePaola stories



Tomie dePaola can be counted on to create beautifully illustrated, clearly written storybooks. He excels in producing stories which relate to:

  • Catholic beliefs;
  • Italian folklore.

He gathers deep truths into an artistic package which is modern in appeal and traditional in technique. For example, the acrylic-painted illustrations in The Birds of Bethlehem have the impact of frescoes while the book’s jacket is entitled in iridescent silver letters whose color changes with different angles and lighting. The text is specific to Christmas Eve and Day even though its message of joyful achievements and peaceful futures have universal applicability. The ensemble welcomes all ages even though educators categorize the target audience as:

  • Ages 3 – 5;
  • Grades preschool to kindergarten.


Birds of Bethlehem readaloud by Liz's Book Snuggery ~ Reading, with views of each illustration, begins at 4:41 and ends at 7:29.

Published on YouTube on December 19, 2012 by Liz's Book Snuggery ~ URL:



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


14-point silver star marks spot honored by Christian tradition as Jesus' birthplace in cave under Church of the Nativity.

Bethlehem, central West Bank
Bethlehem, central West Bank

Sources Consulted


dePaola, Tomie. 2011. The Birds of Bethlehem.

Kathleen. 24 December 2012. “’Birds of Bethlehem’ by Tomie dePaola.” Presbydestrian: Presbyterianism on the Ground. Blog Powered by The Confit Theme. Retrieved December 9, 2014.

  • Available at:

Paul, Pamela. 19 December 2012. “One Night in Bethlehem: ‘The Birds of Bethlehem’ and ‘Our Very Own Christmas’.” The New York Times: Books. Retrieved December 9, 2014.

  • Available at:


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 11/13/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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