Book of the Week: Every Man Heart Lay Down

December 20, 2010

every man heart lay down African Christmas story

We like to add a new Christmas book to our collection each December — but this year, I completely forgot until this morning. So now I’m on the hunt for something really excellent that I can pick up at the bookstore this week. Any recommendations? I’d love to hear if you have a must-read that you can share.

Every Man Heart Lay Down African Christmas Story

Here’s one of my favorites already in our collection. It’s called Every Man Heart Lay Down by Lorenz Graham and it’s wonderful. My mom read this one to me when I was a child and I loved it then, too. It’s an African version of the Nativity story and it’s told with such simplicity and dignity. On the very last page, the wise men are kneeling for the baby, and the title words enter the scene:

“And they look on the God pican
And every man heart lay down.”

I cry every time.

Every Man Heart Lay Down African Christmas Story

The illustrations by Colleen Browning are wonderful as well (aren’t Mary and Baby Jesus on the cover the sweetest thing?).

Every Man Heart Lay Down African Christmas Story

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa December 20, 2010 at 10:37 am

Wow! Think I’ll make this one our Christmas book this year. Beautiful!


2 Shannon December 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

Thank you so much for the book idea. Every year, my husband and I have to tag-team read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski because it makes us both cry. A truly beautiful story.


3 Hayne December 20, 2010 at 10:44 am

That book looks wonderful…just added it to my amazon cart- thanks! We love Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree…..Petunia’s Christmas both are 20+ years old and fun to read.


4 Rachael December 20, 2010 at 11:20 am

I love, love, love versions of the Christmas stories from other countries and traditions. Great find!


5 Tara December 20, 2010 at 11:23 am

I love that idea and plan on starting it with my son this year… thanks!


6 Joanne Dalrymple December 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

Hi! we do the same each year too. This year I’m on the hunt for the original edition of “The Little Match Girl.” It is much pricier than the newer edition. Happy reading!


7 Rilla December 20, 2010 at 11:38 am

Anything Astrid Lindgren…specifically Christmas in Noisy Village, The Runaway Sleigh Ride, and The Tomten. As the daughter of a Danish transplant these books SCREAM Christmas to me…I loved them and now so does my son.


8 Deirdre December 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Christmas in Noisy Village is my favorite too. We have Tomten, but I had never heard of The Runaway Sleigh…will have to search out that title, thanks!

I imagine Gabrielle has all our titles already, but I love Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. Can’t remember the illustrator right now, but they were lovely as was the CD reading of it.


9 Katy December 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

I am not sure if you wanted to get a Christmas book for Christmas, but you might consider getting This is Paris – probably better for the younger ones, but would be a fun intro to the city


10 Ruthie December 20, 2010 at 11:48 am

Such a beautiful tradition! I’m always on the hunt for meaningful traditions to start with my new baby boy – btw, new to your blog and loving the fact that you are a mother of 6, gives me hope that I can do this ‘mommy’ thing :) (I’m one of 7 and growing up in a big family rocks!)


11 -kim December 20, 2010 at 11:51 am

my favorite is called “santa’s favorite story” by hisako aoki. it is so lovely!


12 bdaiss December 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Do you have Santa Mouse? You’ll be adding cheese to your cookie and milk offering on Christmas Eve. : )

It’s been a family favorite since I was little. Beautiful illustrations, wonderful story, and it’s rather short…so you can read it over and over!


13 Deirdre December 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

One more, discovered on Brene Brown’s blog: Robert Sabuda’s beautiful pop-up/paper art books, like A Winter Tale.


14 Jill V. December 22, 2010 at 6:21 am

Love Robert Sabuda’s books! I just did a post about Christmas/wintertime books and included his! So beautiful!


15 Jennifer December 20, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Thank you for the recommendation — Every Man Heart Lay Down looks wonderful! I’ve added it and some other readers’ recommendations to my wish list. I’d love to hear other favorites from your collection.
In our family, we unwrap a Christmas or Winter book from our constantly-growing collection each night before Christmas and read it together. I’d recommend our newest addition — Christopher Wormell’s Through the Animals’ Eyes: A Story of the First Christmas. Wormell is an amazing linocut artist. I’m sure you would love all his books.
Also, anything illustrated by Lizbeth Zwerger — Night Before Christmas, Gift of the Magi, Christmas Carol, etc.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!


16 leslie w. December 20, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I second the Lizbeth Zwerger recommendation — her illustrations are magnificent! Simply gorgeous.


17 leslie w. December 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I assume you already have a Robert Sabuda pop-up (we have his “Christmas Alphabet” and “Night Before Christmas” — both beautiful), but two other fun ones are “The Jolly Christmas Postman” — if you are familiar with “The Jolly Postman,” it’s similar — a cool book of letters to/from various fairy tale characters that you can pull right out of the envelope-shaped pages. Also, Barbara Robinson’s slim chapter book “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” about a group of misfit kids who get cast in a Nativity Play — probably better for your older kids. Happy Christmas reading!


18 Brandi December 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm

We love the jolly Christmas postman at our house! So cute and clever!


19 Jen December 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm

This year we added “On Angel Wings.” The story is by Michael Morpurgo and it is magically illustrated by Quentin Blake. Can’t say enough lovely things about it – the story touches even my tough minded little boys.


20 cindy densmore December 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm

The Cajun Night Before Christmas. Alligators and all. It is delightful. You must read with the accent.


21 barkingkel December 20, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Two thumbs up. My husband doesn’t understand my love of this but then again he didn’t grow up in Louisiana.


22 findingmagnolia December 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I’ve been looking for an African Christmas book for our African daughter, and this is just right. Not sure why I haven’t found it in my other searches, but oh, well. I will order it and have it for next year; everything is still so new for her at less than two months in the US that I doubt she’ll remember every little thing we do for Christmas. We will begin the tradition of reading this book next year.


23 Lisa December 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Are you familiar with the operetta of Amahl and the Night Visitors (by Gian Carlo Menotti)? I grew up listening to it – it’s the story of a crippled shepherd boy who encounters the wise men as they follow the star that leads them to the Christ child. We found a book of it a couple of years ago. The words are almost straight from the libretto, and the illustrations (which are lovely! – and by Michele Lemieux) are somehow consistent with the feeling of the music. Anyway my kids love the book and sometimes they’ll read the book while listening to the music. The operetta itself isn’t super-long – a good length for kids – and it’s got some humor in it, too.


24 barkingkel December 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Oh, another favorite. We have the cd and the book and we all love them.


25 Laura Argyle December 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Angela and the Baby Jesus – Frank McCourt is the new Christmas book in our house – and we are ALL loving it.
I second Jen’s recommendation of ‘On Angel’s Wings’ too.
Or The Best Christmas Present in The World, also by Michael Morpurgo.

Good Luck!


26 Allison December 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm

An orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

Based on a true story, my favorite kind!


27 Becky December 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm

We just added “Richard Scarry’s Best Christmas Book Ever!” My kids love Richard Scarry – lots to look at and read.


28 Christina December 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I’m getting this one next year. I had already bought too many new books for Christmas (but really, can you have too many?!)


29 Nicole December 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Second for Santa Mouse – my favorite and a child and I love the charm of the retro illustrations.

We just found two new favorites at the library — An Early American Christmas and Plum Pudding for Christmas.


30 Julia December 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm

We love Christmas stories. Our MUST reads:

Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree
Christmas Oranges
The Polar Express
The Gift of the Magi
A Nephite’s Christmas


31 barkingkel December 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm

This isn’t a classic but we found it this year and rolled on the floor laughing while singing the songs. They are traditional Christmas song tunes with new lyrics. I think your children are the prefect age to appreciate the humor. “Where did they hide my presents?” by Alan Katz & David Catrow. I bought it from the classroom scholastic booklet.


32 Zoe December 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm

I am adopting African children in 2011 so am so thrilled to hear of this book.

Totally off-topic: I can’t find the post where you mention the firm that designed your web site. I think they are in the Carolinas. If at all possible, can you email me with that or list it here??



33 Alberta December 20, 2010 at 8:05 pm

“Red Ranger Came Calling” by Berkeley Breathed. Funny and touching at the same time.


34 Kim December 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Over the years, I have probably given away two dozen copies of William Joyce’s “Santa Calls” to children I know and love. It’s a charming story of Art and Esther, brother and sister, and the adventure they have when Santa calls on them, and it winds up being a touching story about the love between brother and sister and friends. Not to mention Joyce’s rich and amazing illustrations! I have held onto one copy for years and years and years, and finally, next Christmas, I will be able to read it to my son, who will be nine months old in December. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


35 Sheila December 20, 2010 at 8:43 pm

My favorite book from childhood was The Shiniest Star. So very sweet — I absolutely adore it. I think it’s available in reprint now.


36 Heidi December 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell
(love all his books, btw)


37 Rachel Halatokoua December 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Lemony Snicket’s “The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming” is exactly that.

Merry Christmas!


38 Christina December 20, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I love Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo. Touching story and amazing illustrations.


39 Liz December 20, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Thanks for the recommendation! I’m going to check it out. We also love Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree.


40 Liz December 21, 2010 at 12:11 am

Oops. I mean Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree


41 Anne December 20, 2010 at 11:50 pm

This year we added Christmas in the Trenches and A Night Without Darkness to our collection.

Our Christmas books include many from a series like Mr. Putter and Tabby, Olivia, or Arthur books. One day, we won’t keep so many of the series books on our shelves (sniff) but we’ll still be able to enjoy them at Christmastime! My favorite of that sort is Dragon’s Merry Christmas.


42 Jenny December 21, 2010 at 12:50 am

Maybe mix it up with a winter theme and go with The Art of the Snowflake: A Photographic Album by Kenneth Libbrecht. Super-beautiful pictures of real snowflakes.


43 Melissa Edwards December 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm

What a beautiful book! I am going to order a couple for gifts as well. Thanks for sharing!


44 Laura December 21, 2010 at 7:24 pm

A lesser-known children’s Christmas picture storybook from Candlewick Press is Little Owl and the Star: A Christmas story, by Mary Murphy.
It is a low-key introduction to the Nativity story for the youngest children. This would be a wonderful choice for older siblings to read to the younger children in the family, and then add their own interpretations of the story to enrich their brothers and sisters AND their parents.


45 Sarah December 21, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Such a great idea! We have lots of Christmas books, but haven’t had an ongoing tradition of adding a new one each year. One book we particularly love is C. Michael Dudash’s Good News of Great Joy. The pictures are beautiful!


46 Inha December 21, 2010 at 11:41 pm

My Penguin Osbert-a new favorite for us


47 Jill V. December 22, 2010 at 6:25 am

I just posted about some of our favorites and was looking to add some more. We are also always adding to our collection. You can never have enough books of any kind! Thanks for the post and I will be adding many of these books mentioned! Love it! Merry Christmas everyone!


48 Dianne K. Nelson December 22, 2010 at 7:32 am

Another vote for “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey.” One of our family’s favorites.

Or The Forgotten Carols, if you haven’t read that yet.



49 shari December 22, 2010 at 8:49 am

I can’t wait to get my hands on this book and read it all the way through! I love the idea/tradition of adding a book every year…Thank you for sharing!

When I was a child, I loved to hear my dad read “Cajun Night Before Christmas” in his best Cajun accent. One year I was telling my husband about it and he surprised me with the book as a gift! So, now I read it to my children…and I wonder if they will love it as much as I do. My 8 year old asked me if the book was in english! He couldn’t quite figure out the language…even though it makes complete sense to me.

Anyway…the family lives on a bayou, and Santa’s sleigh is pulled by alligators and he wears a muskrat suit and the story ends with him flying off and shouting “Merry Christmas, ’til I saw you some ‘mo!”

It’s a hoot!

“Cajun Night Before Christmas” by “TROSCLAIR” Edited by Howard Jacobs, Illustrated by James Rice.


50 crazywomancreek December 22, 2010 at 8:55 am

The Donkey’s Dream by Helen Berger. It always makes me cry- it’s a short, very simple picture book- good for very young kids through adults. At the end of the journey the donkey is exhausted but Joseph brings him inside the cave and Mary say’s, “Come see what we have carried all this way, you and I.” And then the donkey isn’t tired anymore.
I just found a link that has pictures from the story and an art project. It’s funny too because the link is from an LDS woman who really likes the story and I am an atheist and the Director of Religious Education for my Unitarian church- and I just read the story to my whole congregation two weeks ago. See? Something for everyone.


51 Leslie Call December 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

We love the book “We Were There: A Nativity Story”. Maybe you already have it, but if not, it’s worth checking out to add to your collection.
Merry Christmas!


52 Belinda Madsen December 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Three of my favorites are:

Santa’s Toy Shop
Richard Scarry’s The Animals’ Merry Christmas
The Glorious Impossible by Madeline L’Engle


53 Belinda Madsen December 8, 2011 at 6:16 pm
54 Kimberly December 8, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Apple Tree Christmas, Jan Brett 12 Days of Christmas, Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher, Maurice Sendak Nutcracker–very lengthy but stunning. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck. And, of course, Luke 2.


55 Ellen December 8, 2011 at 11:05 pm

“Mortimer’s Christmas Manger”. Such a sweet book about the birth of Jesus Christ told through the eyes of a mouse who is looking for a house. 5 stars on Amazon. We love the book! My kids are now 7 and 9 but they love it still and are very quiet when I read it to them….


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