When I somehow stumbled on the title of The Mice, the Monks and the Christmas Tree, I had to immediately find out about it. I love tales of mice at Christmastime and I love tales that weave the Catholic faith into them too. It had to be good right?! Well, I couldn’t find any info online whatsoever other than it was written by George Selden—author of the famed Cricket in Times Square. So I found a cheap copy online and bought it… a rare move for me when I know or hear nothing about a picture book! But I am not disappointed.
The story is lovely. A group of monks are all so busy performing charitable works for others that they quite forget about getting a Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, the mice of St. Patrick’s Monastery finally take matters into their own hands and chop down and decorate their own tree to present to the good brothers. The whole story begs to be read with a thick Irish accent… it’s a fun piece of vintage children’s picture book history. Here are some amateur images so you can take a peek inside:
November 1st is All Saints Day. I like to introduce one new saint book into our collection on that day as a gift to my children. This usually means finding a used copy of a saint book throughout the year at some point and hiding and saving it for that day. Occasionally, in mid October, I do an online hunt for a particular book I’ve had my eye on and buy it used. Rarely, is there a new, worthy saint book published that gets bought right away. This year, however, there was! I took a gamble on The Saint and his Bees because I didn’t know anything about it. All I knew was that I absolutely loved illustrator Claire Brandenburg’s other book The Monk Who Grew Prayer. I have been reluctant to purchase other titles of hers simply because she writes not explicitly Catholic books… but Orthodox. Without going into history details, there is a fine distinction between the two faiths and while I respect Orthodox believers very much, I don’t make a point of venerating their saints specifically (pre-schism: the Catholic and Orthodox churches share the same saints… so I always double check to make sure the book being written by an Orthdodox author is about a saint who lived prior to the 11th century or so. There are exceptions: I did buy the book The Wonderful Life of Saint Sergius of Radonezh after researching that St. Sergius was indeed also recognized by the Roman Catholic Church…)
Anyway, onto this year’s gift to my children: a story about St. Modomnoc (aka: St. Dominic), an Irish monk and student of St. David of Wales in the 6th century. It tells of his bond with the monastery’s bees and the legend of how bees were introduced into Ireland because the swarm didn’t want to let their dear monk go when he had to return to the island… so they followed him! Illustrated in Brandenburg’s classic, rough, quirky style, the story is sweet and fun and a great addition to our collection. I’ll have to do some updating to my listmania lists in this category. I only wish it (and The Monk Who Grew Prayer) was available in hardback! Such a pity to have lovely stories vulnerable to my ravishing, rowdy-handed children! I just have to be extra careful… 🙂