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Cover image for The Ox and the Donkey : a Christmas story
The Ox and the Donkey : a Christmas story
Uniform Title:
Ochs und Esel. English

Publication Information:
New York : North-South Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 30 cm
The relationship between a selfish ox and a gentle donkey that share a stable in Bethlehem changes after they witness the birth of Jesus.
Electronic Access:


Call Number

On Order



The ox and the donkey lived together in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem. But they were not friends. The ox bullied the gentle donkey, greedily gobbling up most of the hay and refusing to cuddle near to share his warmth. Then one cold winter night, a Child is born in their stable, and miraculously the ox is transformed into a kind and generous companion. Loek Koopmans's lovely, reverent pictures illuminate this sweet story about a small, but satisfying Christmas miracle.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 2-A lazy ox is greedy and wild, so a gentle donkey does the work for both of them and the ox eats more than his share of food. The situation changes one night when Mary and Joseph come to the rundown stable in which the animals live. Their kindness brings comfort and love to the lowly donkey and transforms the ox into a decent, caring animal. When the baby Jesus is born, the creatures take turns trying to keep him warm. Peace prevails and honor is bestowed to the donkey when the innkeeper offers its services to escort the Holy Family to Egypt. This retelling of the Nativity is well suited for young children. The text is straightforward and easy to understand. The subtle watercolor illustrations are bathed in star- and lamplight and glow with an inner sense of tranquility.-I. A. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

As happens in many a tale of holiday spirit, the protagonists here start out as enemies and, inspired by the miracle of Christmas, become fast friends. The greedy and cranky ox hogs all the feed and is generally rude to his weak, sad barn mate, the donkey. But when the animals' stable becomes the birthplace of Jesus, the donkey's joy softens the ox's heart. Koopmans's (The Christmas Visitor) pale and gauzy watercolors cast a reverent light throughout. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Because his stable mate the ox eats most of the food and refuses to be friendly, the donkey is unhappy. But after the arrival of Joseph and Mary and the birth of Jesus, the ox has a change in attitude, and he and the donkey become friends. This Swiss import tells a gentle--if somewhat sentimental--tale that, while illustrated mostly in subdued tones of gray and brown, nevertheless has a warm feeling. From HORN BOOK Spring 2002, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Bright, misty lighting gives Koopmans's (Cinderella, 1999, etc.) delicately modeled creche scenes a mystical air, nicely suiting Spang's tale of a bullying ox who is transformed by the Nativity, becoming a loving friend to the donkey, his former victim. Though of the human figures Joseph gets more "face time" in the pictures than either Mary or the infant, verbally and visually the story focuses on the two animals, whose relationship is defined by body language and subtle but clear facial expressions. After warming baby Jesus with their breath and keeping the flies off, ox and donkey are parted when the holy family departs for Egypt, then joyfully reunited when the donkey makes its own way back. It's a quiet sort of miracle, accomplished with no outward sign of supernatural agency. (Picture book. 6-9)

Booklist Review

Ages 4-8. There's a touch of a Cinderella miracle in this picture book about the animals that live in the stable where Christ is born. The stable is cold, drafty, and wet, and the sad donkey is mistreated by the rude, greedy ox. Then one night Joseph the carpenter and Mary come into the stable, and their baby is born. The donkey keeps the baby warm with his breath, Joseph repairs the leaky roof, and the ox shares his food, learns to care for the baby, and snuggles up with the donkey in the hay. The donkey carries Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt ("No path was too rocky, no hill too steep for him"), but he returns home to his friend. The quiet words, translated from the German, are beautifully extended by the soft, glowing blue-toned watercolors that show the strong, loving, outcast Holy Family and the animals in a world transformed. --Hazel Rochman