Book Review: The Mismatched Nativity by Merrilee Boyack

Mismatched Nativity

Book Review: The Mismatched Nativity, Written by Merrilee Boyack and Illustrated by Shawna J. C. Tenney.

I’m really happy that I claimed the review for The Mismatched Nativity for myself. When the title came across my email as an option for the Book Review series, I snatched it up knowing nothing about it, but because it reminded me of a happy memory.

See, my best friend’s mother collects nativity sets. And my best friend is rather tricky. She makes a point, every year, of sneakily mixing up the Mary-and-Joseph pairs from the two dozen or more nativities on display around her mother’s home. It’s a memory for me, too, because when I moved across the country from my family, hers took me in for many holidays during which I was a student and could not afford travel, so I have been a part of this sneakiness.

The title did not disappoint. The young hero of this story, Josh, has just moved across the country to a new home (how I can relate!). He is facing a new neighborhood, new ward, and all new people right before the holiday.

In a lovely gesture, Josh’s Primary class hatches a plan to help make Josh feel welcome in his new community. Each student reaches out to Josh, inviting him to join them in an activity, spending time decorating cookies, sledding, etc. At the end of each activity, his classmate presents him with a piece of their own family’s nativity set. Over the course of these activities, Josh collects a full nativity.

They don’t match. They even kind of clash, and in that is their beauty. It’s all the more special because while the pieces don’t match each other in style, decor, or color, in spite of themselves, they still belong together. Each piece is special to Josh and makes up a part of his beautifully unique Nativity.

I highly recommend this book, especially for any children who have ever moved, whether across town or across the country or to a new continent. The themes were relatable, and the artwork lovely.



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  1. Kalliope, I have moved a lot in my life, and I love Christmas – and this story sounds so touching and heartwarming. And I loved your anecdote about mismatching the Mary and Joseph! There’s something in that that reminds me of how we’re all God’s children, and we can cross all sorts of boundaries through love, rather than staying in neat little sets.

    Thank you for this review 🙂

  2. I thought this book had a great message about inclusion, but as a mom and nativity collector was somewhat horrified by the idea of kids removing and donating various figures from the family nativity set. Would be pretty upset if my kids got ideas from it… 😉

    • acw, your comment made me wonder if perhaps the class couldn’t have all pitched in for a matching set? I guess the sacrifice really is part of the sweetness – though maybe they could split an entire set amongst the participating families in a sequel? I don’t know if I could have a nativity without Mary or Jesus. I might have to read the book to see how those families handled it 😉

  3. This sounds like a lovely Christmas book. My family just moved to a new state and its been hard on the oldest. This would be great for her.

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