Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 24 Dec 2015

The Lion, the Unicorn and Me: The Donkeys Christmas Story by Jeanette Winterson , illustrated by Rosalind MacCurrach

I am very keen on books in boxes and so was thrilled to get this limited, author signed edition as a Christmas present a few years ago. The red box itself is gorgeous with the book cover illustration of the donkey against a deep blue back at its centre. The large box is itself edged with flowers in red and gold - sumptuous. Opening the lid reveals a layer of tantalising red tissue and then the book beneath fits snugly into a decorative clamshell which repeats the grey on white floral pattern of the outer box and book. 


And now the pleasure of the book itself which comes with a red marker ribbon. The end papers are red with a stylised white flower and butterfly design. The first page states 'Before it happened, an angel lined up all the animals- every one, of every kind, because this angel had the full list left over from the Ark.' and shows an exotic line of animals set against a soft green landscape. By the next page, all the animals have been eliminated from a list drawn up by the Angel leaving the lion, the unicorn and the donkey to then explain their particular qualities which we learn is to carry the 'King of the World'.


A few pages on and we see the rich red grey and blue landscape with the donkey carrying Mary spread across two pages with the written text in the upper left hand corner - the important journey has begun.

I am focussing on the aesthetic qualities of the book here but the poetic language is definitely part of this. Just one example of this:

'Oh but it was a musty, rusty, fusty pudding of a town turned out for a show, it's people cussed and blustering, all buy and sell and money, taking their chance while the going was good before the goods got going again'

Some of the following page spreads have more text than illustrations, others have the illustrations bleed across and others have one illustrated page facing a page of written text. 


When the baby is born in the stable, the illustrator begins to add delicate gold details to each framed picture which adds to the drama of the story and provides an extra special tactile quality, almost as if they have been embroidered. The donkey's muzzle is touched by the Angels foot and turned to gold which disappears once he has carried the family to safety away from the murderous King Herod of the Bible story. Despite this, he is forever transformed by the experience.


The final treat, once the book is closed is another layer of red tissue paper and beneath this a picture of the Angels signed by the illustrator. I feel very lucky to possess such a glorious, beautifully presented book to enjoy and treasure.


Mine is number 862/1000.


Karen Argent

23rd December 2015