Author: Mike and Sarah Zimmerman
Illustrator: Sarah Zimmerman
Age Range: 3 – 6 or 7
Publisher: Little Catholic Clubhouse.
I can relate to Mike and Sarah Zimmerman’s frustration at not being able to find appropriate Catholic children’s books to read to their children. In fact, Mike and Sarah became so frustrated that they wrote their own series of Catholic picture books for young children. The result is the Little Catholic Clubhouse series of books.
I read the Little Catholic Clubhouse: The True Meaning of Christmas which is the first in the series. It’s a beautiful and bright picture book that will appeal to young children from as young as 3 up to age 6 or 7 depending on the child. Pre-readers will be engrossed by the vivid colours and child-like drawings. This is a great picture book to read aloud to your children. Children will engage with the story which is simply written but sophisticated enough to interest the six and seven-year olds (and their parents).
The premise of the series is that a group of children have a secret connection with Father Q in Rome who answers their questions. He contacts them via a huge screen in their secret clubhouse. I loved that the children also have radio transmitter watches through which they can communicate with each other. The idea of a secret children’s clubhouse has been with us since Enid Blyton’s ‘Secret Seven’ series – and it’s still a winner for children. They will love the Little Catholic Clubhouse.
The story begins with a problem for Pete who is one of the children – his mother tells him that he needs to think about the “true meaning of Christmas”. Unfortunately, Pete has no idea what his mother is talking about, so the children gather in the clubhouse and ask Father Q to help them out. Well it seems that Father Q has special abilities – he transports the children back to Bethlehem where they witness the events of the first Christmas. The children learn that Jesus was born on Christmas day, and that we celebrate Jesus birthday by giving presents just like the wise men did.
When Pete returns from his adventure, he is a changed boy. He understands the true meaning of Christmas and changes his whole attitude to giving and receiving gifts on Christmas day. The message is biblically based and theologically sound as proved by the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur displayed on the title page of the book (that means there is no doctrinal or moral error in the book and permission has been granted by an authorized Catholic senior official to go ahead and print the book).
Once you have read this beautiful and fun book to your children a couple of hundred times you will have to buy the other two books in the series. At the conclusion of the story there is a short description of each of the characters. And then there’s more! We learn about the special mission that Mike and Sarah Zimmerman are supporting – a portion of every sale of Little Catholic Clubhouse books goes towards funding a secondary Catholic school in Haiti. There are photos of the school, the children and staff in Haiti. This is a wonderful example to your children of service to those less fortunate.
The Zimmermans have provided some prayerful activities for families on their website here: https://littlecatholicclubhouse.com/blog/ Scroll down to their suggestions for Easter, the Stations of the Cross or Pray Day for poverty.
If I were still homeschooling a young child, I know we would be making cardboard wristwatches and video screens for our ‘clubhouse’. If fact I can imagine us creating our own clubhouse and inviting other kids around to play. Maybe teachers could arrange a certain part of the classroom for the ‘clubhouse’ where everyone sits to listen to Matthew 1: 18-25 being read aloud.
There are so many possibilities here to include art/craft ideas with a simple lesson:
Children draw a picture of themselves giving a gift at Christmas time
Making a pretend present to put under a Christmas tree – with a message for the Holy Family written on a tag.
Finding a charity that gives presents to disadvantaged people and asking the children to donate one of their own (good quality) toys.
Finding simple ways to raise a few dollars and using that money to donate to a charity at Christmas time. Ideas to raise money might be: to put on a concert and charge 10 cents admission, a lemonade or cupcake stand, washing cars or sweeping the driveway for friends and neighbours to raise money. This activity can also include lessons about counting money and adding it up – keeping a ledger with columns for dollars and cents.
Ask the children to read about each character at the end of the story (or read it to them). Then ask the children to draw themselves as a character in the story and complete a personal profile like the others (favourite saint, favourite colour etc).
- Related to the above activity you could ask children to draw a picture and fill out a profile for each member of the Holy Family – Mary, Joseph and Jesus.