Back To The Manger by Margaret Ann Philbrick

This book was more – way more, than I had originally thought…. I handled each page with loving care as the words lifted from the pages and into my heart.  ~  Sheila


Christine (left)  w/ Singing River Publications
Christine (left) w/ Singing River Publications

A couple weekends ago I had mentioned that my friends and I went to Ely, Minnesota and experienced the Blueberry Festival.  While exploring the great food and booths, I met Christine Moroni from Singing River Publications.  She had a booth at the festival displaying many of the books they published and while browsing, she and I struck up a conversation about books and blogging.

Christine handed me this book, Back To The Manger before we parted ways and I thanked her and told her I would read and review it.  That brings us to this moment.

Throughout Inga’s childhood, visiting an historic Neapolitan nativity scene each Christmas was a time-honored family tradition.  One year when Inga takes her own children to see it, she discovers that the creche is missing.  Inga takes up the quest to find this Christmas treasure and restore a bit of holiday magic to the heart of the Christmas season.


As I read this lovely book it actually brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully illustrated, I felt it read like it was a true story.  I actually got goosebumps when I turned to the last page, the Note to Reader page, and discovered it was indeed a true story…

The Neapolitan creche described in this story was created in Naples, Italy during the 1700’s.  The nativity set was developed by a number of master craftsmen, each of whom specialized in a particular artistic piece of the display.

In 1920, Kate Raferty, founder of The Little Traveler, purchased one of these nativity scenes.  It was shipped overseas and for many decades, the creche was dispalyed on a bed of fine gold satin and fresh green moss at The Little Traveler.

Eventually the nativity set fell in a state of despair and was stored in the basement of a shop on River Lane, next to Fox River.  For many years it was considered to be lost, until the late 1960’s when Mr. Merritt King, a historian, found the bed and figures.  The building that was storing them was up for demolition and Mr. King was sent to the basement to be sure the electricity was off.  “It was a miracle that they were still intact and not chewed by mice and rats,” he said.

Geneva History Center
Geneva History Center

Mr. King brought them home, dried them and then contacted The Little Traveler.  In 1971 the set was returned to The Little Traveler and remained there until 1989 where they were donated to The Geneva History Center with the goal of complete restoration.  The partially restored creche is now displayed from Thanksgiving to New Years Day in their museum at 113 South Third Street, Geneva, Illinois.  The restoration is ongoing.

This is a wonderful childrens book that unlike many of the stories that are read to our children, this one carries the gift of historical facts.   I would love to see this Nativity Scene at the museum and what a great gift to read to your children and then be able to show them the story… come to life.

The Geneva History Center:  639-232-4961 or

Authors Website

Publishers website

This book was given to me by the publisher

A “G” rating

10 thoughts on “Back To The Manger by Margaret Ann Philbrick

  1. As soon as I finished reading your post I tried googling the book hoping to find a place to get it from. To my dismay I learned it won’t come out until fall. I can’t wait to get my hands on this and share it with my son.

  2. Thank you so much for the delightful review. I am honored that you loved our book. It took my mom two years to complete those paintings so hearing that they are appreciated is very gratifying. I look forward to passing your website on to my reading and publishing friends! Thank you also for the lily in the book a passionate gardener, that touch made my day!
    margaret philbrick

  3. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. I lived in Geneva for 5 years and had never heard the story of this creche. I shopped many times at The Little Traveler.

  4. Hi Margaret,
    My daughter, Leslie gave this book to me for Christmas and I just love it! The Little Traveler is one of my favorite stores and I look forward to going to the Museum to see the nativity scene. Thanks so much for this lovely story and to your mom for her beautiful illustrations. It was so fun to recognize various rooms in The Little Traveler as I read the book.

    I hope the two of you might work together on another book sometime.

    Dawn Betts

    1. Hi Dawn,
      How wonderful to read this comment today! So gald you could identify with our book. I’ll pass your kind words along to my mom! Thank you so much. You will have to go and see the actual nativity during the upcoming Christmas season!

  5. Hi Margaret
    I’m your cousin from California….can’t wait to read your book. At the last Lehwald Reunion in San Diego at Rebecca (Lehwald) Levas’ house we shared the power , blessings , favor and wealth of God through the Covenant of God. You are part of God’s favor….Yea!!!!! My wife and I are on Facebook…stay in touch…..your Dad was a chidhood hero of mine.

  6. HI Howard,
    I am so excited to hear from you. I just happened to come upon this today and learn that my dad was a childhood hero of yours. Email me via my website and let me know why.
    You can order our book anytime on Amazon. Thanks so much for your kind words.

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