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Posts Tagged ‘picture books’

It is a secret to no one who knows me, whether on social media or in real life, that I love Pope Francis.  So when I was offered the opportunity to review a picture book about him, I jumped at it.  I didn’t jump on the reviewing part quite as quickly as I should, for which mea culpa.  Read on to see what I thought–and know that while my review copy was free, I was not otherwise compensated for this review, and my opinion is, as always, my own!

I was hooked immediately by the title–Pope Francis:  Builder of Bridges.  You may know that one of the Holy Father’s titles, Pontiff, comes from the Latin pontifex, literally bridge-builder, and I have always thought it described Pope Francis especially well.

I love that the story starts with young Jorge Bergoglio, walking through Buenos Aires at his grandmother’s side, dreaming of playing soccer.  Since this is a children’s book, it makes sense to start with a child, someone young readers will relate to.

pope book 1

The book showcases events from Jorge’s Bergoglio’s life that shaped his future path, from his relationship with his faithful grandmother, his father’s example of hard work, his encounters with the poor in his city, to his decision to join the Jesuits.  It offers humanizing anecdotes, such as the movie nights he hosted for neighborhood kids.  The story continues through his election as Pope and after to some of the events that have happened since, such as his decision to wash the feet of prisoners, Muslims, and women on Holy Thursday and his writing of Laudate Si.

pope book 2

Visually this book is very appealing, with colorful illustrations that support the text, and accurate portrayals of the Pope.  I especially love the inside covers, which depict stained glass windows.

There are many details here for adults to appreciate too, like the glossary, the many direct quotations from the Pope with their sources provided, a timeline, and a bibliography.

Pope Francis: Builder of Bridge would be the perfect gift for any Catholic family.  I loved it and I am delighted to have it in my library!

Author:  Emma Otheguy

Illustrator:  Oliver Dominguez

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Use the above link, or any link in this post, to purchase this book, and I will receive a small commission.

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It’s Christmas Eve!

In a time of year full of traditions, there is one I think I cherish the most, and it will happen this evening, after Mass and dinner out, when all my kids–even the adult ones–will gather in the living room before the tree to open one present each.

The tradition has its roots in my own childhood.  I don’t know where I got the idea that everyone should be allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, but I convinced my mother that we, too, should adopt this custom.  And for the first few years, I can remember picking any present I wanted to, which usually meant the biggest one!

Somewhere along the way, our practice changed to opening a specific present that my mother chose, and it was always a chapter book.  The idea was that we would go up to bed and read a few chapters and it would help us fall asleep while waiting for Santa.

Emily was not quite a year old on her first Christmas, and I started the tradition immediately with a picture book I read to her before putting her to bed.   The following year I gave her a Christmas book by Tomie de Paola (described in more detail below).  This gave me the idea that going forward I would give only Christmas books.

As Christmases passed and our family grew, so too did our collection of Christmas picture books.  I started a couple of new traditions–reading a few stories every year in my children’s classrooms, having a bedtime story party for their classmates in our home.  Then our house burned down and we lost them all.  A sweet little girl in Lorelei’s class, remembering the party she had attended the year before, helped us repurchase our favorites, and six years later we again have a full box that we pull out every year.

It became increasingly difficult to find five good-quality Christmas books that we didn’t already have every year!  For awhile I tried buying the big kids chapter books but the Christmas offerings for adults weren’t quite on the same level as the picture books they had loved as children.  So last year I tweaked the tradition yet again, and began giving Emily, Jake, and Teddy each their own copy of one of our favorites for them to begin building their own Christmas library.

We began last year with The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola, our all-time favorite that we read on Christmas Eve every year after we’ve finished the new books.  I cannot get through this sweet retelling of an old legend without crying.  It’s a very Catholic tale of conversion with some Franciscan brothers and a miracle included.

the clown of god

This year they will be receiving The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski.  This redemptive love story is beautifully illustrated and yes, it makes me cry too.

jonathan toomey

The Other Wise Man, a story written originally by Henry van Dyke and adapted for children by Pamela Kennedy, will probably be next year’s gift.  It’s the story of a fourth wise man who missed meeting Jesus in person because he was too busy helping others along the way.

The Other WIse Man

An Appalachian tale based on a true story, Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant is another touching story about Christmas giving that ends with a tear-inducing twist.

silver packages

The four stories above were among the first Christmas books we collected and they continue to be favorites that the kids–yes, even the big ones–want to hear year after year.  But there have been a few gems that despite their more recent acquisition have captured a spot on our favorites list, like A Small Miracle by Peter Collington, a surprising tale in which a poor woman is repaid for her kindness by some very unexpected visitors.  This is a quirky, wordless story that will hold the attention of every age group.

small miracle

I’ll stop here, because five seems like a good number and then I can do this again next year.  Tell me about your favorites in the comments–and Merry Christmas!

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If you are a parent, you KNOW that you understand exactly what I mean, right?  Your kid fixates on some favorite book–which you HATE–and he wants to hear it multiple times a day, sometimes chanting “Again, again!” right after you finish it, like a Teletubby.

After five kids, you had better believe I have done my share of reading to children.  And I know how to condense a story and rush my way through a hated book. I honestly don’t get how some of this stuff makes it into print.

But books that parents love to read and kids hate to listen to are no better, are they?  I’m thinking about all the beautifully illustrated hardback poetic bedtime story books I’ve bought over the years that, frankly, bored my kids to death.  I’d look at them longingly, sitting ignored on the shelf, but Emily was the only one of my children who would put up with listening to baby literature.

Emily is a book addict like me, and she was born that way.  Before she could walk, we could sit her in front of her shelf in the bookcase, and she would pull out every book, one at a time, and actually look at each picture (not throw them behind her for fun, like the rest of my kids).  You could occupy her for an hour that way.  And because she was the first child, and the only one for three years, we read to her all the time.  I can recite the entire Dr. Seuss ABC book from memory (you probably can too, so I know you aren’t impressed) and large parts of other children’s books as well, thanks to Emily.

There wasn’t as much time to read to Jake and Teddy.  Most of our reading happened at bedtime.  They were actually really cooperative about listening to what I would consider “improving” books, like treasures from my beloved Eloise Wilkin collection like Prayers for Children and My Little Golden Book about God.  They had a book about the Parables of Jesus that they loved.  They asked over and over again to hear the one about “the man in the ditch.”

I am embarrassed to admit how little I have read to Lorelei and William by comparison.  I don’t mean I never read to them, but it wasn’t daily, not even at bedtime.  Maybe it makes up for it some that Emily likes to read to them.  Since we moved here, I read bedtime stories to Lorelei most nights, usually the books she herself has picked out from her school library.  She especially loves the Pee Wee Scout chapter books.

What children’s books do I like?  I could write post after post on this topic (Ah!  There’s an idea!).  I’m not a fan of sappy tearjerkers like I’ll Love You Forever.  Make of that what you will.  I also loathe gimmicky retreads like If You Give a Moose a Muffin.  There was an awesomely hysterical article posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago about horrible children’s books, which I did not repost because of the Bad Word in the title.  But I agreed with almost all of it.  Except I do think the Amelia Bedelia series is amusing.  My new favorite children’s book isn’t exactly for children.  But I digress.

Let me share just a few that my kids like and that I don’t mind reading over and over:

I first heard Owl Babies on Reading Rainbow.  We bought the board book and Jake and Teddy loved it.  We changed the three owls’ names to Emily, Jake, and Teddy.  I never tired of reading it and they never tired of hearing it.  The underlying message–that Mommy ALWAYS comes back–is organic, not tiresome and preachy.

More More More Said the Baby is a feast of bright colors and baby love.  It’s multicultural without screaming “Hey, look at how diverse these characters are!”  It only has a few words on every page!  What more could you ask for?

I think Red Red Red came to us via Imagination Library.  As if it weren’t enough that someone surnamed Gorbachev would write a book with that title, it’s a lovely book.  I had to read it to Lorelei every night for months so I know.  I just love the moment at the end where everyone finds out what is red.  What a great reminder to enjoy the little things in life.

Doesn’t EVERYONE love Frog and Toad?  I didn’t appreciate them nearly as much as a child as I have come to as a grownup.  These books teach friendship by showing it, not preaching about it.  Can you tell I hate preachy children’s books?  And they are funny, too.

Will you share your favorite picture books with me in the comments?

 

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