Review: Jotham’s Journey
Using Advent Storybooks to Celebrate Christmas with Your Kids
By Sherry Fiscella
If you ask our now-adult kids, they’d both tell you that one of their favorite childhood Christmas traditions was reading aloud from Arnold Ytreeide’s Advent storybook series. Cozied up on the couch with Advent candles and the Christmas tree lit, we read one chapter from the book beginning the first evening of Advent, and we finished reading the last chapter along with Luke 2 on Christmas morning. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger that had our kids begging to read extra chapters to discover what happened next.
The first volume in Ytreeide’s collection, Jotham’s Journey, is the fictional account of a 10-year-old shepherd boy who, as a result of his disobedience, becomes separated from his family. The story unfolds as he heads toward Bethlehem in search of his clan but is delayed by a cast of wild jackals and kidnappers. In the end, Jotham is not only dramatically reunited with his family, but is among the shepherds who receive a spectacular announcement from a host of angels. Of course, Jotham and his family follow the angels’ directions and hurry to Bethlehem to worship the newborn king, Jesus, whom they recognize as the long-awaited Messiah.
This adventurous tale awakened imagination and wonder about the Christmas story and its historical period for our kids… and us, too! Most chapters are followed by a short devotional reading or discussion questions that point back to the biblical account; we found it valuable to help our kids sort out which elements of the story which were historically accurate, which were taken directly from scripture, and which were purely fictional.
Jotham’s Journey includes danger, intrigue, and suspense that will thrill some but may bother sensitive hearts. Although themes of hope and redemption are strong, scenes including abandonment and violence may not be appropriate for some children. The publisher recommends the series for children ages eight and older.
Advent Prayer from Jotham’s Journey
“Stir us up, O Lord, to make ready for your only-begotten Son. May we be able to serve you with purity of soul through the coming of him who lives and reigns.”
Advent begins on Sunday, November 27, this year, so there’s still time to pick up a copy in the Soteria Resource Center or order the book from Amazon or Christianbook and start this storybook tradition with your family this season. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, the books are also available on Audible and Kindle. There are four books in the series; each book follows the Christmas story from the unique perspective of a character introduced in the first volume. Ytreeide also has a similar book, Amon’s Adventure, for Lenten reading during the weeks leading up to Easter; a new book, Amon’s Secret, is being released in January 2023 that will pick up after the resurrection of Christ to tell the story of the first century Christians.