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Posts Tagged ‘April’

Habemus Papam!

At a recent visit to a large Catholic bookstore, I found a real treasure of a book for our home library. I was thinking of giving it to one of them for Easter (our family tradition is to stuff the Easter baskets with books in addition to candy), but I’m not sure I can wait that long for them to have it, so we may just stick it on the shelf. Karen Congeni has written a beautiful, simple children’s book entitled We Have A Pope!.

I’ll give a disclaimer here that for obvious reasons, this is a very Catholic book and explanation of the papacy is faithful to the teachings of the Church. Just want to make that clear! My favorite part of the book is that each page has very bright photographs of either traditional artwork depicting biblical scenes, pictures of Popes in the past, or scenes from the Vatican that we would have seen during the most recent papal election.

So the book begins with a brief explanation of who the pope is, why Jesus made Peter the first pope and how that relates to our current pope. It then moves to explain why the popes change their names, where the pope lives and how the church chooses a pope. In the back there’s a glossary and a list of popes, from Peter to Benedict XVI.

I am so happy to have found this book, it does a great job of explaining the papacy to children and communicating the excitement that was felt in the church when Benedict XVI was chosen. I’m skeptical that you could find this book in your library, but Amazon carries it as well as many Catholic book stores.

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There are so many great books on dragons and knights and I wish I had the time to post them here.  My son goes through these books faster than I can get to reading them myself.  But I know it will be an ongoing theme for me to review here.  We usually manage to have at least one of this kind of book in our library basket.

The most recent one that we’ve read is an abriged version of a story by Kenneth Grahame.  He is the author of The Wind in the Willows which was our family read-aloud at the beginning of the summer.  Inga Moore abridged and illustrated The Reluctant Dragon and as a result we are left with a great picture book.  This is a longer story, each page has several longer paragraphs, so it would be probably for kindergarten ages or up as a read-aloud. 

The story is about a little boy who befriends a kindhearted, poetry loving dragon and helps to keep peace in his village.  The villagers find out there is a dragon about and decide that he must be a vicious creature.  They create all kinds of tales about the dragon’s horrible deeds and employ the help of St. George to deliver them from this wicked creature.  The shepherd boy meanwhile loves spending time with the dragon, discussing poetry and stories and is frightened for the dragon’s life.  He goes to St. George to help him understand the mix-up with the villagers.  Together, with the dragon they hatch a plan to give the villagers their battle between knight and dragon, at the same time allowing the dragon to live in peace.

I won’t spoil it for you, though.  You’ll have to read it to your kids to find out the rest!

The illustrations are colorful drawings, sometimes two page spreads and while I’ve never been to the Downs where it takes place, the drawings make me want to visit!  The dragon’s face shows his kindhearted personality and yet, gives you a sense that he could look fierce if he needed to.

My only minor quip about this book is that St. George is called “St. George” in the story.  Rather odd, and maybe it’s part of the humor to be addressing someone as “Saint” before they’re dead.

Although this isn’t directly about St. George it would be a fun read in April for that feast day as well.

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I’m not even sure how this book showed up on my library search for Christmas books, but I’m glad it did, anyway.

Angela Elwell Hunt has retold a traditional folktale called The Tale of Three Trees. It’s a wonderful, little story about 3 trees who had wishes to be great things and ended up each serving Jesus in different ways.

One little tree wished to hold treasure, but instead was made into a feed trough for animals.

The second tree wanted to be the strongest ship to carry kings but instead was made into a small dinghy.

The third tree just wanted people to see itself and think of God, but instead was made into rough logs.

As you can probably guess, each one was disappointed with its lot in life and wondered what had gone wrong.  But each one was used for important parts of Jesus life. The feed trough was used to cradle the baby Jesus.  The dinghy carried the king Jesus and his disciples when he calmed the storm.  The third tree, as a log, held Jesus on the cross and helped people to think of God.

This was a great story to spark some discussion about vocation, and how God transforms us to do great things.

This legend is told simply and beautifully.  The illustrations (by Tim Jonke) are definitely unique.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen trees drawn like that in books.

What I like about it is when each tree is given it’s job, it’s not explicitly said, this is Jesus.  The kids have to figure that part out.  For instance, it simply says:

…a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box….and suddently the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

Highly recommend this story.  It’s short enough for younger children, and meaningful enough for olders.  Appropriate for Christmas time, Easter, or really throughout the year.

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