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Archive for the ‘March’ Category

March 17th, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Patrick, patron of Ireland.  As of last year, I only knew of one children’s book to celebrate this saint and the feast day.  This year, we’ve found three more at our library.

The first, and by far my favorite is Tomie dePaola’s Patrick:  Patron Saint of Ireland. I will always fall in love with dePaola’s storytelling abilities and the way his artwork can capture adults and children.

This story starts with Patrick as a young boy being sold into slavery, then tells about the highlights in his life.  It ends with his death and his lasting influence on the country of Ireland, then briefly tells some of the traditional legends told about Saint Patrick.

I like this book because it focuses on the spiritual aspects of Patrick’s work and his travels.  The author doesn’t shy away from telling us that Patrick’s mission was to bring God to every person he encountered.  His mission was to baptize, teach and bring the good news.

He must return to Ireland and take the people the good news of God.

It’s my opinion that you can never go wrong with a saint book by Tomie dePaola!

The second Patrick book is by Ann Tompert, who I only recently discovered and have been impressed by her books.  You can find my review about her other book here.

Saint Patrick is a beautiful, captivating book.  I read this to my 7 and 4 year old boys over snack time, and most of the time I noticed that they weren’t actually eating, because they were so engaged in the story.  Ann Tompert explains in the author’s note that she used Patrick’s own writings in his letter “Confessions” for the basis and inspiration for the story.  She doesn’t include some of the popularly told legends about Patrick, such as the banishing of the snakes or the teaching moment of the shamrock.  But she tells about his life, giving more details about his childhood and life as a slave.  Throughout the story she insert’s quotes from Patrick.

He often went hungry, eating only roots and berries.  Although he suffered many hardships, Patrick never lost hope.  “God kept directing my path,” he said.  “I feared nothing.”

Michael Garland’s illustrations are bold and very crisp and colorful.  Very detailed and beautiful.  This is another well done saint book by Tompert.

The next book we read, is one by Margaret Hodges. You can click on the tag of this post to find other books by her that I’ve have reviewed.   She has a great gift for storytelling and legends.  Saint Patrick and the Peddler is no exception.  However, I caution that by the author’s own admission, she was not so much after getting to the truth of the legend.  Rather, she blended several legends in different areas of Ireland and came up with this story.  Nonetheless, if you’re not after the cold hard facts, which likely wouldn’t be your purpose in reading a St. Patrick book to your kids anyway, this makes for a great story.

Hodges tells of a poor but generous peddler who lived around the time of the potato famine.  He is visited by St. Patrick through his dreams who tells him to go all the way to a bridge in Dublin for some good news.  When he gets there, it’s still not clear to him why he’s there, but he finds out when he returns home.  It’s a lovely story to illustrate how God’s directions sometimes don’t make sense to us but become perfectly clear and utterly perfect if we allow ourselves to follow them.  Hodges has some great lines in here that just make you feel like someone is sitting with you telling the story.

On and on he went, mile after mile, farther than he had ever gone in his life, and then farther.  Don not ask me how he did it, but at long last he came to Dublin and saw the River Liffey, its dark shining water flowing over golden sand.

The other gem of this book is the illustrations, which are paintings by Paul Brett Johnson.  There are two page spreads that are captivating.  From the river scene with the stone bridge, to the town scene with the cobblestone road and carriages, he’s very talented.

This one will definitely be on our list of books to buy for our own home library.

The last book we read is definitely my least favorite, but an ok story overall.  Sheila MacGill-Callahan has written a Patrick book which is based on the legend of Patrick banishing all the snakes from Ireland.  The Last Snake in Ireland:  A Story about St. Patrick is a lighthearted story, obviously not meant to be an inspiring story.

It portrays Patrick as more of a revengeful, prideful bafoon than a spiritual bishop who just wanted to spread God’s love.

The Patrick in this story is irritated by the one last snake that refuses to leave, so he comes up with an idea that is sure to trick the snake.  But the idea backfires many times over.  Finally Patrick thinks he has been successful, he waits many years and checks to see how the snake is getting along in the Loch Ness.  He finds that the snake has grown to an enormous size and is now called the Loch Ness Monster.  It’s an interesting melding of legends but not a particularly effective way to learn more about or be inspired by the faith of a saint.

I hope from these books, you can find something to read to observe St. Patrick’s day this week.  If you have a favorite Patrick book not mentioned here, I’d love to hear about it!

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