I have a confession to make: I enjoy reading children’s books. I mean, not all of them, obviously, because often I find that merely labeling something as being written for children relieves the author of any obligation to practice good writing. Have you seen some of the fodder that lines the shelves in most children’s sections in libraries and book stores alike? Terrible. Simply terrible. Apparently, just having short words and no plot is enough to get some of these authors published, so long as the books are intended for the under 10 set. If you add a religious aspect to the mix, they can be even worse. All that is necessary then is a few platitudes on how “awesome” God is and some hokey pictures. When it is bad, it is, like the little girl with the little curl, horrid.
For as bad as many of these tomes are, though, there as some that are equally good, in every sense of the word. It is these books that I enjoy. When an author writes both with the simplicity necessary for a child and still manages to delve deeply into the mysteries of life, something magical happens. There is a synthesis of innocence and knowledge that rarely appears in books meant for us adults, and more’s the pity.
Recently, I read one of these “good” books to my own children. Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present is nothing short of a gem when it comes to leading our little ones closer to the Church and to a love of Her traditions (both big “T” and little “t”). For starters, listed right on the back cover, easy to see, are the words “With Impramatur.” If you know me, you know that I do a little happy Catholic Mama dance when I see this on children’s book. Already, it’s a cut above most of the — stuff — out there.
The book takes children from the calling of the apostles to the institution of the papacy all the way to the current holy father, with a few stops along the way to visit with some of the better known popes. In going through the episodes of the life of St. Peter as told in the Bible, the author makes sure to use translations that are appropriate to the current English translation of the Mass. As I read it, I could see the realization dawn in my sons’ eyes as they recognized the words they hear so often. It gave them a context and kept their attention.
In addition to the story of the papacy, the author, Don R. Caffery, also includes tidbits on the College of Cardinals and the Conclave, on St. Peter’s and the Vatican. All of these are supported by the beautiful illustrations of Emmanuel Beaudesson. They are colorful and vibrant without being overpowering. My children, and I, poured over them. I especially enjoyed the picture of the Swiss Guard (but then again, when don’t I enjoy one of those? I’m a little obsessed).
Our Holy Father, the Pope is a delightful book with lovely illustrations that is packed full of lessons about the faith and the Church, not just the papacy. It kept my rambunctious children rapt for the half hour or so it took us to read it. For a mom of many (which I apparently am), this is something to look for in any book. I think it will prove to be an invaluable addition to our family library and to our children’s education in the faith.
Our Holy Father, the Pope: The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present
Author: Don R. Caffery
Illustrator: Emmanuel Beaudesson
Publisher: Magnificat and Ignatius Press, jointly
ISBN: Ignatius Press 978-1-58617-921-2