Tag Archives: faith

St. Francis of Assisi meets Bimba Landmann

On Oct. 4th we celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of Assissi.  I would guess that there is no other saint in existence who has more picture books dedicated to him; he is the saint for all peoples.  What’s not to love about the peaceful man?  You will find St. Francis statues in nature lover’s gardens and you’ll find New Age pacifists quoting him on the topic of peace. Whatever the case may be, it’s always a good idea to get a true sense of the man with some lovely books.  And you have many great choice to choose from. Here is just a partial list of some of the better St. Francis-related titles out there:

Saint Francis
Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy
Canticle of the Sun: Saint Francis of Assisi
Brother Juniper
Brother Sun, Sister Moon
The Good Man of Assisi
Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi

But I want to especially highlight my personal favorite book on the man, called Clare and Francis.  I don’t think I can sing the praises of illustrator Bimba Landmann enough.  I first discovered her with the excellent book: A Boy Named Giotto, and have since placed all her titles on my wish list. She is such a unique artist  for children: color, beauty, and a hint of eerie grace all her pictures.  I am so glad she didn’t let her teacher act as a killjoy for her:  I decided to become an illustrator when I was a child. 

“I think I was about ten years old, or maybe less. I went on a school visit to a museum where there were a lot of ancient illuminated books, all hand painted by Reinassance monks. When I saw those blues… the golds…the paper… I was lightening struck, gripped by this emotion. I immediately rushed to my teacher and told her: “I know what I will do when I grow up!” But she laughed and answered, “that sort of work does’nt exist any more”. I didn’t believe her at all, and I went on filling my exercise book with words, drawings, colours and images from my inner world. “

If you are just going to have one book about St. Francis on your shelves, make it this one… a sample of the inside:

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”  
– St. Francis of Assisi


Fairy Tales and Reality

Oh so very much to say… So many good books to discuss… Such a busy month though. I am turning this post over to G.K. Chesterton with a section from Tremendous Trifles, (Free on Kindle!) courtesy of Project Guttenburg.  It’s a superb read… The tale he references at the end is free to read online and is sometimes called The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear:


I find that there really are human beings who think fairy tales bad for children. I do not speak of the man in the green tie, for him I can never count truly human. But a lady has written me an earnest letter saying that fairy tales ought not to be taught to children even if they are true. She says that it is cruel to tell children fairy tales, because it frightens them. You might just as well say that it is cruel to give girls sentimental novels because it makes them cry. All this kind of talk is based on that complete forgetting of what a child is like which has been the firm foundation of so many educational schemes. If you keep bogies and goblins away from children they would make them up for themselves. One small child in the dark can invent more hells than Swedenborg. One small child can imagine monsters too big and black to get into any picture, and give them names too unearthly and cacophonous to have occurred in the cries of any lunatic. The child, to begin with, commonly likes horrors, and he continues to indulge in them even when he does not like them. There is just as much difficulty in saying exactly where pure pain begins in his case, as there is in ours when we walk of our own free will into the torture-chamber of a great tragedy. The fear does not come from fairy tales; the fear comes from the universe of the soul.

The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it—because it is a fact. Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear. When I was a child I have stared at the darkness until the whole black bulk of it turned into one negro giant taller than heaven. If there was one star in the sky it only made him a Cyclops. But fairy tales restored my mental health, for next day I read an authentic account of how a negro giant with one eye, of quite equal dimensions, had been baffled by a little boy like myself (of similar inexperience and even lower social status) by means of a sword, some bad riddles, and a brave heart. Sometimes the sea at night seemed as dreadful as any dragon. But then I was acquainted with many youngest sons and little sailors to whom a dragon or two was as simple as the sea.

Take the most horrible of Grimm’s tales in incident and imagery, the excellent tale of the “Boy who Could not Shudder,” and you will see what I mean. There are some living shocks in that tale. I remember specially a man’s legs which fell down the chimney by themselves and walked about the room, until they were rejoined by the severed head and body which fell down the chimney after them. That is very good. But the point of the story and the point of the reader’s feelings is not that these things are frightening, but the far more striking fact that the hero was not frightened at them. The most fearful of all these fearful wonders was his own absence of fear. He slapped the bogies on the back and asked the devils to drink wine with him; many a time in my youth, when stifled with some modern morbidity, I have prayed for a double portion of his spirit. If you have not read the end of his story, go and read it; it is the wisest thing in the world. The hero was at last taught to shudder by taking a wife, who threw a pail of cold water over him. In that one sentence there is more of the real meaning of marriage than in all the books about sex that cover Europe and America.

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that 
dragons can be beaten.”


St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Saints in General, and How to Be a Savvy Library Patron

A potpourri post that omits some of the best books based in Ireland only because there are many and I’m saving them for another upcoming theme:
Next week is the feast of St. Patrick. If you live in a particularly big city or a particularly literate area or a particularly homeschooler-thick area, it’s probably too late for you to reserve your St. Patrick books at the library because bibliozealots like me snatched them up at least a week or two ago already. See you really have to be forward-thinking with seasonal literature. Some people walk into a library on December 23rd expecting to pick up some lovely Christmas stories for their kids to enjoy Christmas Day… ha! It ain’t gonna happen my friend! Reserve your Christmas books a month out, then when they notify you that your holds are ready to pick up, you wait until the last possible day to pick them up. Usually you have a week’s grace period to pick up your holds. So that puts you out three weeks to the holiday. Your library should let you borrow books for three weeks. But if you want them longer, try to renew your books a week after you get them or so. Some will already have reservations on them from other users, others will be available for renewals. You make the most of it.

This is the way to get seasonal or holiday books. I try not to hoard every single book on St. Patrick or Christmas or Thanksgiving or whatever… that’s just gluttonous, but I do try and make sure we have a super great title or two that we can count on to be perfect holiday reading.
Furthermore, I am more and more interested in purchasing seasonal or liturgical books than the average run-of-the-mill book only because it’s nice to rotate things in and out of your book basket as the rhythms of the year come and go. So I’ll even borrow some Christmas books from the library in October or November for preview’s sake… to see if it’s something I want to purchase. Right now, I’m getting itchy to purchase some lovely Easter-themed books for the children on Easter morning and the time is already over-ripe to make those plans!
But I digress.
St. Patrick’s Day. And a wee bit of Ireland in general just to get in the sprit of things shall we?
My favorites:

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting. Very sweet story with excellent Jan Brett illustrations about a young boy who is too big for his britches.

Patrick Patron Saint of Ireland by the incomparable Tomie dePaola. Everyone should have the basic story of Patrick in mind on this holiday that quickly gets overtaken with beer and leprechauns… this is a good a story as any! Also, I haven’t personally read these, but here are some other books on the saint himself that look like they might be real gems too: Patrick, Saint of Ireland, and The Story of Saint Patrick and The Life of St. Patrick: Enlightener of the Irish.
St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons. Gibbons does a great job at producing basic, light non-fiction children’s books on a ton of topics. This book is a good overview of the holiday and current customs. My only beef with it is that it says the shamrock is a “symbol of St. Patrick”… well, uh, actually it’s not. He made this symbol famous for representing the Holy Trinity… but I try not to be too pedantic with kid’s books. Key word “try.”
Mary McLean and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade by Steven Kroll. Wishes really can come true for this little girl!
Saint Patrick and the Peddler by Margaret Hodges is out of print but your library may have it. This is a fantastic story that tells like a verbal story… try to read it with an accent! It may be scary for young readers as the ghost of St. Patrick is shown… the story actually has nothing to do with his feast day but all things Ireland relate to him somehow it seems!

***[Side Note]***

I was typing a title into Amazon to find the link and I stumbled on this book which looks like it could be a real winner… at least the cover art is appealing to me. So don’t take my word for it, since I’ve not reviewed it myself yet, but I was surprised to find a book on St. Patrick that I’d never heard of that looked really promising! (boo, my library system doesn’t have it in their system.)
St. Patrick and the Three Brave Mice by Joyce Stengel…
***[/Side Note]***

The Blackbird’s Nest: Saint Kevin of Ireland by Jenny Schroedel. This is a good time of year to go through other Irish saints too… and this particular story is particularly Lenten so I consider it a must-read!

Ciaran: the Tale of a Saint of Ireland by Gary Schmidt. St. Ciaran was one of Ireland’s first saints… he was encouraged by St. Patrick. This is a lovely, gentle book with excellent illustrations and evocative prose: “But still Ciaran’s eyes looked to the east, and his heart longed for the name of God…”
Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildaire by Jane Meyer. Geared toward slightly older children, this story of St. Brigid has stunning illuminations that make the whole thing come alive from the Emerald Isle… (see also Brigid’s Cloak)
Acrosss a Dark and Wild Sea by Don Brown. This is an excellent story about the Irish monk St. Columba…
Brendan and the Voyage Before Columbus by Michael McGrew. Get your history straight on the “discovery” of the New World and add some faith in there too!


The Motherload List of Excellent Catholic Picture Books

***last updated August 2018***

catholic-picture-booksHere is my personal, comprehensive list of excellent picture books that help nurture a love for the Catholic faith and Christianity in general. This is just my opinion, mind you.  There are certainly other Catholic books out there but I have been pretty selective in highlighting only ones that I either have or would buy myself. You won’t see ugly or inane books on this list; I don’t think we should buy/read “twaddle” even if it comes packaged as a “saint story.”No sense in dumbing down the beautiful!  However, there are a couple compromises on this point… only because either the pictures or the text are in and of themselves absolutely worth your time. This used to be a post linking you to my Listmania lists on amazon.com but they limit you to 40 titles.  🙂 I also left out the entire St. Joseph Picture Books series (which admittedly do have their place, especially being thin, cheap and Mass-friendly), as well as most Christmas books since that genre is too big for my purposes here, another time maybe…  I’m interested only in STORY picture books here, that happen to reinforce specifically Catholic/Christian values.  I starred *books that are my own very special favorites. Either way, enjoy the list!

An Alphabet of Saints*
Saints for Girls: A First Book for Little Catholic Girls
Saints for Boys: A First Book for Little Catholic Boys
Lives and Legends of the Saints
Saints: Lives and Illuminations
More Saints: Lives and Illuminations


The Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe*
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mary and the Little Shepards of Fatima
The Life of Mary
Mary: The Mother of Jesus
The Lady in the Blue Cloak: Legends from the Texas Missions

St. Francis
Clare and Francis*
Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy*
Francis Woke Up Early
St. Francis and the Proud Crow
Wolf of Gubbio
Saint Francis of Assisi
Canticle of the Sun: Saint Francis of Assisi
Brother Sun, Sister Moon*
The Good Man of Assisi
Brother Juniper*
Saint Francis

Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc*
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc

St. Nicholas
The Real Santa Claus: Legends of Saint Nicholas*
The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale
Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend
A Special Place for Santa: A Legend for Our Time*
The Legend of Saint Nicholas*
Saint Nicholas and the Nine Gold Coins

St. Wenceslaus
Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslas
Stephen’s Feast

St. Valentine

Saint Valentine*
Saint Valentine

St. Hildegard
Hildegard’s Gift
The Secret World Of Hildegard

St. Christopher
Legend of Saint Christopher*
Christopher: The Holy Giant

St. George
Saint George and the Dragon (more legend than fact, but still fun to read…)
Saint George and the Dragon

St. Benedict
The Life of Saint Benedict
The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica*

St. Martin de Porres
The Pied Piper of Peru
Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert
Martin’s Mice
Snow on Martinmas

St. Patrick

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
Patrick: Saint of Ireland*
The Life of St. Patrick: Enlightener of the Irish

St. Columba
Across a Dark and Wild Sea
Man Who Loved Books

Other Irish Saints
The Blackbird’s Nest: Saint Kevin of Ireland*
The Ravens of Farne: A Tale of Saint Cuthbert
The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare
The Saint and his Bees (St. Modomnoc)
Saint Ciaran: The Tale of a Saint of Ireland

Misc. Saints
St. Anthony the Great
Bernadette and the Miracle of Lourdes
A Saint and His Lion: The Story of Tekla of Ethiopia
St. Jerome and the Lion
Pascual and the Kitchen Angels*
The Wonderful Life of Saint Sergius of Radonezh*
Saint Brendan And The Voyage Before Columbus*
Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves/Pedro Claver, Santo Patrono de los Esclavos
John Mary Vianney: The Holy Cure of Ars
Bernadette: The Little Girl from Lourdes
Lucia, Saint of Light
The Little Friar Who Flew (St. Joseph of Cupertino)
Saint Jude: A Friend in Hard Times
Saint Felix and the Spider
Mother Teresa
Yes! The Life of Blessed Josemaria for Young Readers*
Lolek – The Boy Who Became Pope John Paul II
Roses in the Snow: A Tale of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Kristoph and the First Christmas Tree
St. John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog


Bible Stories
Old Testament
Noah’s Ark*
Noah’s Ark
The Tower of Babel*
Sarah Laughs
Moses: The Long Road to Freedom
The Angel and the Donkey*
Jonah and the Whale*
The Book of Jonah
The Story Of Ruth
The Story of the Call of Samuel
Jacob and Esau
Benjamin and the Silver Goblet*
The Coat of Many Colors
David and Goliath
The Wisest Man in the World
Kings and Queens of the Bible
Old Testament Rhymes
Queen Esther Saves Her People*
The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale
Daniel and the Lord of Lions
The Lord is My Shepherd
To Every Thing There Is A Season*

New Testament
The Nativity: Six Glorious Pop-Up Scenes*
The Miracles of Jesus
The Parables of Jesus
Loaves & Fishes
Parable of the Good Samaritan
The Parable of the Vineyard
The Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Bridesmaids
The Twelve Apostles
The Easter Story*
The Thornbush
St. Peter’s Story
St. Joseph’s Story
Love Is . . .
The Way of the Cross: Holy Week, the Stations of the Cross, and the Resurrection

The Saving Name of God the Son *
The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith*

Angel Stories from the Bible
Twice Yours
I Believe: The Nicene Creed
The Lord’s Prayer
This Little Prayer of Mine
This Is What I Pray Today: Divine Hours Prayers For Children
Prayer for a Child
If Jesus Came to My House*
If Jesus Came to My House (newer edition)
A Child’s Rule of Life
Friendship with Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI Talks to Children on Their First Holy Communion
A Is for Altar, B Is for Bible
Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present
Manners in God’s House: First Prayers and First Missal
I Believe: The Creed, Confession and the Ten Commandments for Little Catholics
Just For Today*
I Went to Mass: What did I See?


The White Cat and the Monk
The End of the Fiery Sword
Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb
Jacinta’s Story
Brother Hugo and the Bear*
The Miracle of St. Nicholas*
Brother Bartholomew and the Apple Grove
The Clown of God*
The Little Juggler*
The Acrobat and the Angel
The Monk Who Grew Prayer*
The Little Rose of Sharon*
The Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God’s Gift of Purity
The Squire and the Scroll
Brother William’s Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey*
Joseph’s Hands*
Sister Anne’s Hands
The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale
Song of the Swallows
The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane
Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born*
Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as Told by a Cat
Max and Benedict: A Bird’s Eye View of the Pope’s Daily Life
The Monks Daily Bread
The Monks Stormy Night


A Home for Ol’ St. Nick

One week from today we’ll celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas. On this day, my own family wakes up to stockings filled with nuts, chocolates and small toys, trinkets or in the case of this year: battery operated toothbrushes! The joy! We do this on the 6th of December in keeping with the tradition of who St. Nick was and the legends that surround his name. Unlike many Christian parents I know, I’m 100% at ease with the place of St. Nick in our holiday celebrations. Forget the Easter Bunny, he makes no sense whatsoever… and the kids have ALWAYS known it’s us and not some random “tooth fairy” who places money under the pillow upon losing a tooth. You think we’d bypass the pillow tradition for efficiency’s sake but there’s something deflating about Junior presenting you with a bicuspid and demanding: “Pay up!” No thank you.

But we do foster a healthy and appreciable devotion to good St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. And I don’t think Santa Clause detracts a bit from the Christ Child on Christmas Day if he’s given his proper place. There is a book to help you if you’re wondering what that place is: A Special Place for Santa: A Legend for Our Time. This book sort of tells the story behind that darling ornament of Christ kneeling before the Infant. It reconciles who Santa is and who St. Nick is and what his place is for Christmas. The illustrations aren’t my favorite… I’m allergic to anything that looks like a Saturday morning cartoon… but the text makes this book a good one for parents who don’t know how to explain St. Nick to their kids.