“And as they travel from near or far,
Let fear and anger empty from their hearts.”
— Let The Faithful Come, written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Charity Russell.
Okay, picking just one quote was a difficult task, and I had to restrain myself to not give out too much of this unique nativity story. I purchased Let The Faithful Come two weeks ago, right before embarking on a long, long travel.
There is something about reading this book on a plane – implying I was on my own “sacred journey”, in the dark, with as only source of light the illustrations jumping off a screen. How could I describe the experience? First the words hit you, your mind proceeds to process the depth of their meaning – “let them stand together in patient expectation” (side note: expectation! What a great word for kids to learn); and the illustrations give the final punch. Then you turn the page and it’s happening all over again.
There is something about reading this story in the midst of an escalation of terrorism acts on a global scale, including in places not covered by mainstream media, including in the very place where I am right now. Something about going somewhere, to celebrate the birth of a child and every child through him. Indeed whether you believe in God or not, whether Jesus-Christ means something to you or not, if you have children in your life chances are you will celebrate the end of the year by celebrating them, by offering the children who matter to you a gift.
There is indeed something about reading of a sign of hope to follow, questions regarding what is left of compassion in our world, and the reminder of how precious every child is.
Refugees. That is the first word that came to mind when I ventured through the first pages. I sat up straight, and read the story again, and again. I used to be a Sunday school teacher (over the span of 25 years); as a bookseller I read quite an amount of Nativity stories during that short period of my professional time. Though I haven’t read all the Nativity books for children under the sun, this one is the first that struck me by its relevance in regard to current events, from the text to the modern-day illustrations. Let The faithful Come offers a unique opportunity to engage in dialog with young and old regarding the true meaning of Christmas, regardless of one’s religious background.
A note regarding the illustrations: Except for the last one, all the scenes are set in the nighttime. With the challenge that a night setting can present, I applaud Charity Russell for offering the reader such bright, vibrant and colorful depictions of journeys made in the darkest of times. I especially enjoyed the purple hue throughout the pages. In some cultures purple represents a royal color. With that in mind the illustrations could indeed infer that each person on these pages, despite his or her difference in clothing style, and skin tone, and body shape and gender, is royalty and therefore that the well-off person on top of the social ladder matters as much as the one below.
In addition, and here I’m being totally biased, it gave me such joy to see a child of color celebrated by a crowd. Thanks to the author and illustrator for such a positive image. A detail like that in a book can alter a kid’s outlook on his future.
About the author
Zetta Elliott, PhD, is an award winning children’s book author, a playwright, an educator and an activist. At the time of this post she has over seventeen books published under her imprint Rosetta Stone as well as traditionally. For additional information regarding her books and to get in touch with her, please visit
About the illustrator
Charity Russell makes a statement about her commitment to and passion about diversity in children’s literature from the moment you land on her website. Based in the UK, she has “a First Class Masters Degree in ‘Illustration and Design’ from The University of Sunderland, U.K.” For additional information regarding her work and to get in touch with her, please visit:
Updated on December 2, 2015 to correct minor typos.