New children’s books on saints, traditions make great Christmas gifts
December 15th, 2015
By Regina Lordan
WASHINGTON – The following books are suitable for Christmas giving:
“Drop by Drop” by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, illustrated by Carrie Gowran. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2015). 39 pp., $4.95
Sylvie is a girl from Burkina Faso who is eager to go to school but cannot because she is tasked with the daily chore of fetching water for her family. It takes all day to carry the water from the river three miles away, leaving her no time for learning in a classroom. But with the help of aid workers from Catholic Relief Services, a well is drilled in her community, dramatically changing her life. American children might have a hard time relating to and understanding how CRS’ development and aid projects around the world help answer Jesus’ call to solidarity with the poor, but “Drop by Drop” will help children see how the church works to make lives better. Younger readers will enjoy “Green Street Park,” a book also by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, about a group of young students inspired by St. Francis to clean up their neighborhood park. Ages 6-10.
“A Missal for Little Ones” translated by Janet Chevrier, illustrated by Joelle d’Abbadie. Magnificat (New York, 2015). 64 pp., $12.99
This beautifully illustrated missal invites young children to become active participants in the Mass with its simple description of the parts of the Mass. The missal does not seek to explain the mysteries, liturgies or the consecration, it only takes the child step-by-step through the parts of the Mass. The book also offers a few prayers for children. Adults can read the book to young ones before attending church, helping the children to recognize what is going on around them, and older children can take the book with them to Mass to help them understand what they are observing. Ages 3-7.
“Just for Today” by St. John XXIII, illustrated by Bimba Landmann. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2015). 34 pp., $16.00
Bimba Landmann brings to life with colorful and intriguing illustrations St. John XXIII’s decalogue of how to live each day humbly, politely and lovingly toward God and others. Affectionately known as “the good pope,” St. John wrote guidelines that are obtainable, direct, sweet and simple enough for children to follow. The hardcover book is a keepsake that will open the discussion about this pope who courageously had saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust and was canonized by Pope Francis in 2014. Ages 4 and up.
“Catholic Saints for Children” by Anne-Sophie du Bouetiez, illustrated by Benedicte Lefebvre. Magnificat (New York, 2015). 94 pp., $16.99
Saint books for children might seem like a dime a dozen, but a few stick out. This one certainly will with its bright watercolor illustrations and inclusion of lesser-known female saints, such as St. Genevieve and St. Hildegard. Each passage includes a description of the saint, illustration, reflection and prayer. Children will also get the opportunity to read about soon-to-be saints, such as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Ages 3 and up.
“Let’s Pray the Rosary” by Mauricette Vial-Andre, illustrated by Emmanuel Beaudesson. Magnificat (New York, 2015). 33 pp., $14.99
This illustrated hardcover book will give children an introduction to and reaffirmation of the significance of Mary in Catholicism and praying the rosary to ask for her intercession. The passages include stories about how the rosary came to be, the many ways to pray the rosary and stories about the saints and the rosary. Ages 6 and up.
“Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born” by Anna Egan Smucker, illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2015). 32 pp., $17.
Brother Giovanni was a happy monk who loved to bake. He enjoyed his simple role as baker at the monastery until he was tasked to teach a group of unruly students their prayers before an important visit from the local bishop. But the joyful monk was unsuccessful at being stern and could not control the rowdy bunch. One night it dawned on him to bake his way to success, and Brother Giovanni made little rewards out of salt and dough called “pretiolas” to entice the children to learn their prayers. Alas, the boys and girls couldn’t resist the “pretiolas,” that we now know as “pretzels,” and they learned their prayers just in time. All readers will enjoy this fun story and beautifully illustrated hardcover book. Ages 4-8.
“Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree” by Claudia Cangilla McAdam, illustrated by Dave Hill. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Massachusetts, 2015). 32 pp., $16.99
A young boy, a priest and one powerful blow to an oak tree begin this legendary story of how the first Christmas tree came to be. Children will enjoy the detailed illustrations and exciting story about how a group of pagans were shown the power of God by the strength of St. Boniface. The story explains why the evergreen tree is a part of the Christmas tradition and includes a prayer based on the words of St. Boniface. Ages 4-6.
“Junipero Serra: Founder of the California Missions” by Linda Gondosch, illustrated by Emmanuel Beaudesson. Magnificat (New York, 2015). 36 pp., $14.99
Children can learn about one of the church’s newest saints by reading this illustrated hardcover book. Pope Francis, during his trip to the United States in September, canonized Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary who evangelized native Americans along the California coast. St. Junipero’s journey was difficult and at times seemingly impossible, but he felt called to spread Catholicism despite the exhaustion and dangers. His life story is one that Pope Francis has called an example of a “tireless missionary.” Ages 6 and up.
“Christmas!” by Maite Roche. Magnificat (New York, 2015). 14 pp., $6.99
This board book, sturdy enough for the smallest hands and quick enough for the shortest attention spans, is the perfect story of Christmas for toddlers. Sweet illustrations and simple text will engage little readers. Also in this series is “Our Father” by Maite Roche. Ages 0-3.
Lordan, a mother of three, has master’s degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.
From December 17, 2015 issue of Catholic San Francisco.