Title: Jubilee and the Legend of the Donkey’s Cross
Author: Holli Worthington
Illustrated: July Enright
Publisher: Page Publishing, NY.
Age Range: 5 – 8
Title: The Easter Storybook
Author: Laura Richie
Illustrated: Ian Doyle
Age Range: 7 – 10
Because I’m having trouble finding authentically ‘Catholic’ Easter books for children and teens – this week I’m reviewing two Christian Easter books. I’m happy to point out the value of these books for our children; but I’m also going to point out why I don’t consider these to be Catholic books.
Jubilee and the Legend of the Donkey’s Cross is a sweet story about the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem, which we celebrate on Palm Sunday. It starts with Jubilee being born to Mama Donkey, and we see him following his Mama as she goes about her weekly trip into town with the farmer who owns them.
Then Jubilee meets Jesus, who is portrayed as a gentle and caring man. We follow the events that lead up to Jesus death on the cross. We only see the feet of Jesus on the cross, and Jubilee is very sad as the shadow of the cross is cast over him. After that, the mark of the cross is on Jubliee’s back, and he has lost the sparkle from his eyes. But of course, as events unfold Jubilee joins the farmer in proclaiming the good news of Jesus resurrection. The sparkle even returns to Jubilee’s eyes.
The end of the book includes the answers to several questions such as What is sin? Who is Jesus? And What do I need to do to be saved? Each page has scriptural references at the bottom. The illustrations are endearing and carefully crafted. The book is nicely presented, however it is clearly not an expensive publication. None the less it is a book that children will enjoy having read to them, and it is informative in relation to the story of Jesus and Easter. There is even a recommendation for parents to explain to children that the story of Jubilee is a legend, but the story of Jesus is true.
The teachings of the Catholic church are derived from either sacred scripture or church tradition and are authorized by the Magisterium (the Pope and all the bishops). Many protestant churches believe in ‘scripture alone’. This is a lovely Easter book which is clearly pointing to scriptural references, but not the traditions of the Catholic Church. For example, there is no reference to the Last Supper or the institution of the Eucharist in the story. The answers to the questions posited at the end of the book do not make any reference to the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation or communion. In answering questions about sin and being saved, there is no mention of the importance of the Mass, or the Catholic sacraments. As such I do not recommend this book if you are searching for an Easter story book that carefully adheres to Catholic teaching.
The Easter Story Book (40 Bible Stories showing who Jesus is), is a beautifully presented hardcover children’s book. The premise of the book is that a Gospel story about Jesus can be read each day throughout Lent – thus 40 Gospel stories are included. Each story is taken from the Gospels. The first is Jesus teaching in the temple as a boy, then we move forward to John the Baptist baptising Jesus. The final story is an account of the Ascension.
The illustrations are colourful and very good. They are drawn to appeal to children and careful thought has been put into how characters are clothed, the utensils being used and the presence of water wells and stone cities. There is an historically authentic feel to this book. The illustrations are on every second page, with text on the facing page. A question to ponder or prompt discussion is provided at the end of each story, for example, “Why is it good to be like a child?” and “Why did Jesus make some people leave the temple?”
I discovered by reading the acknowledgements that the writer used input from Dr Kenneth Bailey who is a theologian who has spent much of his life in the Middle East – thus the authentic details to the illustrations. This is an attractive and interesting book which will help children get to know Jesus from the Gospels. The stories remain very close to scripture but are simplified with explanations. An example is the story of The Good Samaritan:
“The next traveller was a Samaritan. Jews hated Samaritans. They lived in separate places and tried to avoid each other.”
I would not hesitate to use this book as a resource when teaching children about Jesus and the stories of the Gospels. The Last Supper is included with the washing of the feet and Jesus words faithfully repeated as in scripture. Following this description of the Last Supper, there are a few lines written that refer to the new covenant and the law of love written on our hearts which may be confusing to some children. The scriptural references to Isaiah that open and conclude the book might also be confusing or unclear to children. This would be a book best used selectively by a family, or with teacher reading and guiding children as you go.
The book was not written specifically for Catholic families or children. If you are looking for a book to link the events of Easter to the Catholic traditions and teachings then this is not the book for you. On the other hand, I would quite comfortably use this book to bring the Gospel stories to life which it does so well.