We Were There
by Eve Bunting, Wendell Minor (Illustrator)


On a winter night long ago, a baby boy was born in a stable with only the animals to witness his arrival. But it wasn’t just the cows and donkeys and soft little lambs who were present. Smaller, less loved creatures were there, too.

Lyrically written by Eve Bunting and luminously illustrated by Wendell Minor, this beautiful book offers a unique and moving perspective on the Christmas story. It reminds us that all God’s creatures, both great and small, celebrated the arrival of the Christ child.


From Publishers Weekly
The creature parade to Bethlehem continues (see The Animals' Christmas Carol, reviewed above) in Bunting's (Smoky Night) somewhat self-conscious poems about the lowliest beings to have witnessed Jesus' birth ("I am Rat./ Colorless/ as darkening dirt"). Minor's (Pumpkin Heads!) shimmering watercolors, lit as if by moon and stars, capture desert vistas and the distinguishing characteristics of Snake, Cockroach, Scorpion, Bat and others who traveled afar to be present, if unnoticed, at the Nativity. Ages 4-8.

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From Capital Parent
In a unique twist on the nativity story, unlovely creatures are driven,
one by one, to a journey of glorious witness across the night desert, in We Were There (ages 3-6). Every dark thing in these starry paintings is set aglow with warm heralding light that sparkles on desert sand or barn beam; and reflects off scale, wart and tough carapace. The spare text announces with simple poetic description the intent of snake, scorpion, bat and spider TO BE THERE. Children love the final unexpected image of these unconventional beings in their quiet corner, patient and unseen, admiring the baby in the manger. It forces little ones to gently re-examine their prejudices and joyously fulfills an important message of inclusion.

From The Companion
A unique nativity story from a slightly different perspective. Snake tells how he will slither across the wintry desert to be present at the Christ Child’s birth. Toad promises his presence as does Scorpion, who also vows not to sting. The shiny shelled cockroach proclaims he will attend, along with Bat, Spider and Rat. The donkey, cows and little lambs generously share their home with the expecting couple. They all gaze upon the woman, patiently waiting. In the corner unnoticed, Snake, Toad, Cockroach, Bat, Spider and Rat all share in the sacred moment. Brilliant, full-paged paintings add detail and bring the story to life. The dazzling desert sand complements the sparkling night sky. On this special night, the venomous snake’s tongue, the toad’s warts, the scorpion’s stinger and the cockroach’s shiny shell do not seem repulsive. The bat, the spider and the rat, all creatures who normally shy away from humans, gather in the shadows to witness the blessed birth. A warm holiday that will delight all readers.

From School Library Journal
Nativity stories often mention the ox and lamb as humble visitors to the holy stable where Jesus was born. Here Bunting shares the view of seven other creatures that were also witnesses on that special night. Snake, toad, scorpion, cockroach, bat, spider, and rat all offer a brief poem, always ending with the refrain, “We will be there.” Minor’s gouache-and-watercolor illustrations feature zoomed-in views of each narrator and occasional double-page spreads from one animal’s perspective (snake on a vast expense of sand, rat nestled in the straw). The last line sums up, “No one will know/or care./But we were there.” Libraries with active Christmas collections will want to add this title for its unique perspective. The poetry may inspire youngsters to create verses of their own for other “less loved” creatures.

From Booklist
We know about the large creatures present at Jesus’ birth, but what about small ones, multilegged little nuisances, such as the spider or the cockroach, or even the despised scorpion? What about the snake or the toad? It’s not hard to imagine a rodent among the larger quadrupeds in the stable, but what about a bat? Could it have hung like a tiny folded umbrella in the rafters above the baby? In a narrative, reminiscent of French poet Carmen Bernos de Gasztold’s Prayers from the Ark (1991), Bunting offers an unusual perspective on the Nativity story. The snake slithers its way across the desert, the spider navigates on threads and puffs of wind, the rat squeezes into the stable after an evening of scrabbling for crumbs at the inn. “I will be there” is their melodic refrain. Minor’s realistic artwork captures the unusual menagerie in all its scay, warty, beady-eyed, spindly legged charm. Great for story hour, especially when combined with Norma Farber’s When It Snowed That Night (1993).

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