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Laurel Guillen
Your Pitch

On the 800th Anniversary of the Christmas Nativity Scene 
A Story Emerges That Takes Readers Back to That Time

This Christmas take a step back in time to the year 1223 and discover how common villagers and animals, led by St. Francis of Assisi, staged the first nativity scene in a mountain cave and started a new way to celebrate Christmas Eve.

It’s rare to find a holiday book like A Bellwether Christmas: it tells a story that can entertain every member of the family regardless of age, it reveals history about a beloved Christmas tradition, and it features charming animal characters.

Laurel Guillen’s work of fiction was inspired by a life-changing trip to Italy and years of caring for some remarkable farm animals.

“Many years ago,” Guillen said, “I visited central Italy and came away with a burning desire to write a novel set in the time of Francis of Assisi and the early Franciscans. I did extensive research, but nothing ever came of it. In the meantime, I raised a son who adopted farm animals, including a horse, two sheep and two donkeys. One Christmas season a few years ago, the plot for this novel suddenly downloaded into my brain in a few minutes.”

She added that she suddenly realized “I was being given the chance to write a novel that combined my knowledge of 13th-century history as well as farm animals. I knew it was supposed to be a children’s novel, but one that adults would love also.”

A Bellwether Christmas depicts medieval rural life from its songs to work, food to customs, and each chapter begins with a beautifully drawn illustration that evokes the style of medieval woodcut art. Guillen also includes “afterwords” to help readers understand St. Francis’s life and his importance to the Church, and to introduce readers to the real-life farm animals her characters are based upon.

Bart is a curious, impetuous lamb who lives in a tiny village in medieval Italy. He is always getting into trouble and feels like he doesn’t belong. In chance encounters with a hare, a lark and then a terrifying wolf, he learns about the poor man from Assisi who loves all creatures and talks to them about love, honor and belonging. Bart is convinced that this man, and the new kind of celebration he is planning for Christmas Eve, holds the key to understanding his own destiny. But when Christmas Day dawns, he faces his biggest challenge yet: a dangerous mission to bring the gift of love to a friend. Will he be brave enough to finally find the place where he belongs?

The winner of multiple awards, including a First Place Christian Indie Award and Finalist in the 2022 Readers’ Choice Book Awards, A Bellwether Christmas is full of historical details to entertain kids and adults alike and offers a perfect opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about the meaning of Christmas.

“A heartwarming story with lovable characters and a touch of history and legend. Any child (and adult) who loves Christmas will love this book.”

Nancy Stafford, actress, speaker, and author of The Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God and Beauty by the Book: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You

Available Topics to Discuss:

1.    The 800th anniversary of the Christmas Nativity Scene and what that first Christmas Nativity Scene celebration was like.
2.    How can you encourage your kids to read books?
3.    What influence did St. Francis have during the 13th century and what influence does he still have today?
4.    How do Christmas celebrations 800 years ago compare to Christmas today?
5.    What are some new Christmas traditions that you can start with your family?
6.    How can we get our kids more interested in animals and nature?

A Bellwether Christmas
Publisher: Fidelis Publishing (November 1, 2022)
Language: English
Hardcover: 128 pages
ISBN-10: 195645408X
ISBN-13: 978-1956454086
Available from and wherever books are sold


Laurel Guillen is a Cornell University graduate and former radio, newspaper, and television journalist who has always loved medieval tales. She helped her husband, Michael Guillen, PhD, produce the award-winning family movie Little Red Wagon and now writes the blog God and Gardening on Facebook.