Ishmael: The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem

ishmael-book-cover-w740-nonfeattureIshmael is a newly released, beautifully illustrated, hard cover children’s book which tells an interesting Christmas story about a teen aged shepherd boy who encounters the Christ Child. Senior Editor, Vivian Dudro took time from her busy schedule to discuss the book and its potential impact on children today.

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle: Ishmael is a new children’s book with gorgeous illustrations and a moving story. Ms. Dudro, why do you think presenting the Christmas story in a new way is interesting for kids today?

Vivian Dudrow: As most of us adults have experienced, the same story told in the same way over and over again can become so familiar that it loses its impact. This Nativity story gives us a fresh look at the peace and reconciliation God intends the whole world to experience through Christ.

How can the Christmas story impact children’s lives?

The Christmas story touches children more than it touches anyone else. First of all, there is a baby, and children immediately connect with the innocent and defenseless baby in the manger, even when they do not know who he is. Second, there are the animals, and what child is not delighted by animals? G.K. Chesterton said that once a child has experienced the charms of Christmas and the marvelous story of Christ’s birth, that child will never be the same again.

Is this the kind of book that can be read together as a family?

Yes, this is an ideal read-aloud book. The illustrations are gorgeous and the story is both simple and profound. So you can place a young child in your lap and have others snuggled around you, and there will be something for everyone.

Is there a particular lesson that can be learned from Ishmael? If so, how can it help today’s families?

Ishmael shows children the bitter divisions that existed among the peoples living in the Holy Land at the time of Christ’s birth. These divisions affect the children in the story, and they still exit in the world today. Look at Ferguson, Missouri, for example. Yet, on that first Christmas, the angel said to the shepherds: “Peace on earth.” How can we experience that peace, but through forgiveness and reconciliation? That is the lesson learned by the children in the story, and it is a message for all of us, children and adults alike.

What age range does this book best suit?

A child as young as 3 or 4 can enjoy the pictures. Older children up to about age 11 or 12 will like the story.

Why do you think the shepherd boy, Ishmael can come to be beloved to children today?

Ishmael lives on the margins of society. He is mistrusted, disliked, and sometimes even abused for being an outsider. Yet he is a capable and resourceful boy. Many children experience rejection in their neighborhoods and schoolyards, even if for reasons very different from those in the story. So they can look up to Ishmael and taste the hope that comes from the privilege of meeting Christ and experiencing the power of his love and mercy that can turn enemies into friends.

Where can we get this book?

You can order it directly from Ignatius Press on our website, www.ignatius.com or by calling us at 1-800-651-1531. It is also available at your local Catholic bookstore and Amazon.

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