This weekend, Twelfth Night has come and gone and I have taken down my Christmas decorations (no-one in my part of the world leaves their decorations up beyond Twelfth Night–it is considered bad luck to do so). Whenever I carry out this ritual, I take a careful second look at all of my Christmas cards, just in case there is a talented illustrator I can have in my sights for a future Barefoot Books project. This Christmas season, the three cards I like best come first from a promising artist (a row of quirky fairy tale characters), secondly from Hugh Lupton and his wife (a hand-crafted silvery sliver of crescent moon against a pitch black night sky) and thirdly from a French book of hours. This is the one I like most of all. It shows the Holy Family in the stable at Bethlehem, with Mary reading aloud as she sits tucked up in a big red blanket, Joseph holding the well-swaddled infant Jesus and the two oxen looking on, listening attentively to the story and obviously enjoying themselves.  I wonder what she is reading? This picture comes from the fifteenth century though, serving to demonstrate that reading aloud to babies has a long and distinguished history. If anyone has come across scenes of mothers reading aloud to their babies from an earlier period, I’d be delighted to see them. Meanwhile, a very Happy New Year to all of us!

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