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Christmas storybook; How The Hibernators Came to Bethlehem, by Norma Farber, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. New York: Walker & Co. $6.95

This slim book adds a charming new dimension to the Christmas story. Its tale is pure and simple: The star of Bethlehem lovingly draws even winter's hardiest sleepers -- the hibernating animals -- to the manger at the inn.

As the star shines on from page to page, the reader receives a lesson in nature as well. Colorful illustrations give close-ups of all sorts of winter animals awakening in their varied dens and nests. The habits of each hibernator are further explained by the text.

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It's difficult to suggest an age group for this beautifully illustrated story. The layout of textual blocks on pages full of large, sweeping pictures would delight five- or six-year-olds. But the poetic style of the story has too many challenging similes and artistic touches for that age group to appreciate and seems more appropriate for readers 9 and up.

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