Christ Child Helps Calm an Anxious Lamb
Review by Deborah K. Frontiera
There are thousands, maybe millions, of “Christmas” books out there—but most of them focus on the secular aspects of the holiday, rather than Christmas as the birth of Jesus. Among the books with Jesus as the center, it’s hard to find one that sticks to biblical accounts but finds a way to tell that Gospel story in a new and unique way. With Wooly and the Good Shepherd, Elizabeth Fust has managed to do that: utilize a more unique point of view and a bit of a twist in meaning.
Fust’s timid lamb, Wooly, because he sticks close to his “good shepherd” out of fear, has an encounter with the Christ Child who eases his fears and brings him peace. The author’s narration of the story from Wooly’s point of view makes the story simple, clean and easy for a child to understand and relate to.
Right out of the gate, Wooly is having an anxious day watching streams of people enter the city of Bethlehem, and he doesn’t understand why. The other sheep tease him because of his fears, so he stays close to his shepherd and doesn’t fall asleep with the other sheep that evening. Because of this, he is the only one of the herd to witness the angels’ visit and singing. Staying in the lamb’s point of view, the announcing angel is called a “birdperson”—just the way a personified lamb would see him. He then learns the word “angels” when his shepherd talks to him.
When the other shepherds wake up the entire flock to follow them into Bethlehem, the other lambs don’t believe Wooly when he tells them about the angels. The conversation of the shepherds fills the reader/listener in on biblical details of a crowded city. Wooly watches his shepherd enter the stable/cave to talk to “a gentle looking man and lady”. The other sheep want to know what all the excitement is about when the shepherds come out, but only Wooly has the courage to enter the stable. Wooly nuzzles the tiny baby with his nose and the baby laughs and reaches out to touch Wooly’s nose. He then finds he has the same feeling—lack of fear—that he has with his “good shepherd”.
Therein, we see the deeper message for children, and all of us: a close encounter with Jesus will calm all our fears and bring us peace. Fust’s “good shepherd” becomes a symbol of The Good Shepherd. Without being “preachy”, the author gets the message across to children in a way they will understand.
Illustrator Zachariah Stuef’s art work compliments this message beautifully. His use of color, shape, slight bits of abstraction mixed with simple lines, clear images and symbols will make the same impression on children as the words do. Kudos to both author and illustrator!
If you enjoy Wooly and the Good Shepherd, we encourage you to check out The Hungry Kitten’s Tale (of loaves and fishes)
Wooly and the Good Shepherd
By Elizabeth Fust
Rivershore Books, Minneapolis, MN, www.rivershorebooks.com
Retail price, $9.99, kindle version: $2.99
About the Reviewer
Deborah K. Frontiera grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, has lived in Houston since 1985 and taught in Houston public schools until 2008. A “migratory creature,” she spends the summer months in her beloved U.P. and the balance of the year in Texas. Three of her books have been honor or award winners. She has published fiction, nonfiction and poetry, for all ages, in both books and periodicals. She taught part time for Writers In The Schools in the greater Houston area from 2008 through 20016. She is the newsletter editor for the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association (UPPAA) and has helped judge many writing contests for both students and adults. For details about her many books and accomplishments, please visit her website.