In honor of the upcoming canonizations of beloved Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII on April 27, I’m reviewing a couple of children’s books. The first covers the papacy in general, the second is about the life of John Paul II.
Our Holy Father, the Pope
Written by Don R. Caffrey; Illustrated by Emmanuel Beaudesson
Our Holy Father, the Pope is a large picture book, bursting with facts about the papacy. After the introduction, it delves right into the heart of understanding the papacy: its biblical origins. The life and death of Peter take up about the first half of this 44-page book. The second half spotlights 4 great popes (Clement I, Leo the Great, Pius X, and John Paul II), gives details about what the life of a pope looks like now, and explains the process of a conclave. The final 2 pages are references: a list of the succession of popes from Peter to present, and the scripture passages and traditions on which the papacy is based.
The first time I picked this book up, I was a tad bit disappointed. The sentences are fairly short and looked to be geared towards a first or second grade reading level. But when I finally got the chance to sit down with it for an extended period of time, I was pleasantly surprised. Our Holy Father, the Pope, while it does at times appear simple enough for an elementary student to read it, nevertheless contains enough substance to be the basis for a unit of study, or at the very least, several nights of lively family discussions. Perhaps the most beautiful part about this book is the biblical account of the relationship between Jesus and Peter: it weaves thel tale of humanity’s imperfect love for Christ and Christ’s never-ending well of forgiveness for us.
The artwork is vibrant and kept my two youngest (ages 4 and almost 3) engaged with the story for much much longer than I expected. It is watercolor (I believe, but don’t shoot me if I’m wrong), but with a good deal of variation of style between pages. For example, the images of Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis are all very realistic, but the images of the biblical Peter and Jesus are suitably “dreamy.” And I know it’s a personal thing, but I appreciate when an artist makes Jesus look reasonably middle-eastern, which Beaudesson does.
I give this one a hearty two thumbs up, and strongly suggest Catholic parents get a copy to share with their kids. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say that even I, pope-loving-Micaela, learned a few things from this book.
John Paul II: the Journey of a Saint
Dominique Bar, Louis-Bernard Koch, Guy Lehideux
From the beginning to its very end, the life of Karol Wojtyla was an incredible adventure. He was born into a Catholic middle-class family in wartime Poland of 1919. Though he seemed blessed with many virtues (athleticism and theatrics among them), Karol also experienced many family tragedies. Through the subsequent occupations by the Nazis and then the Russian Communists, Karol grew in his faith and heeded the call to become a priest. He quickly became well-known as both an intellectual and an active promoter of peace and justice. His life, both before and after his election to the papacy, was one long mission to spread the love of God and promote the Gospel message of peace throughout world.
John Paul II, the Journey of a Saint is epic. It’s a large hardcover book, and 78-pages long. It also has the distinct honor of being the very first graphic novel I’ve ever read in its entirety. I’ve mentioned my self-diagnosed ADD before and I think that my general dislike of graphic novels is probably directly related to how much visual input there is on any given page. However! I not only finished this book, I found it both entertaining and very instructive. Our Holy Papa’s life reads like a saga from beginning to end, and the medium of graphic novel seems perfect; it truly captures the essence of the action he found in his life. If I had one criticism of this book, it would be that the book includes dates for nearly everything John Paul II accomplished and for all related military and world events. At times it seems to get in the way of the story. However, it isn’t all bad. Including the dates and other relevant information actually does broaden the scope of the book so that it can be used both as entertainment reading but also as source material for reports, etc.
I’d give this one a two-thumbs up, too. It’s a great read for any elementary to middle school aged child, but the younger ones will need help with the foreign names and understanding some of the big picture of world events. I think the target audience -boys of about 9-13 years of age – will eat this up and ask for more. Parents: the book includes historical acts of violence (attempted assassination, images of war, etc) so if your child is sensitive, especially visually, I suggest previewing it.
Rosa, a lovely representative from Magnificat~Ignatius Press sent me both of these books. I received the books for free, but the opinions are 100% bon-a-fied Micaela. All links within this post go directly to Ignatius, and I receive no compensation from them. Both books are available on Amazon as well, and you can get to them by clicking the Amazon box on the right hand sidebar.
Now get on over to Housewifespice for more great book suggestions.