Author: Jean Miller
Illustrator: Jerry Smath
Publisher: Little Golden Books, Penguin Random House
Age Range: 3 – 6
This is another non-denominational story book that describes the events of Easter. It is not specifically Catholic, however it does describe the Last Supper with Jesus’ words quoted directly from scripture. The book mentions ‘crucifixion’ but does not describe or illustratively depict the crucifixion of Jesus. Using very simple words the story of Easter unfolds. I think young readers may have many questions like “what is crucifixion?” or “is Jesus in heaven or Galilee; how can he be in both places?” Children will probably need help with words such as “Ascension” and “Golgotha”, but I like that these relatively complex words are included. With repetitive reading of the book, children learn these important words and their association to Easter.
I was impressed by the use of illustrations to help children understand the story. We see Judas collecting his big bag of silver coins, and the women clearly grieving as the tomb is sealed. Each page has a small amount of text with a large, colourful illustration which closely matches the events of the story. The layout will really help children to read and understand what is going on.
After explaining the Easter story, two pages are used to describe how each of the days of Holy Week is related to the Easter story – this is a useful ‘wrap up’ that highlights and reinforces the significance of Holy Week. The words “Maundy Thursday” are used which are not in common usage now.
The final four or five pages are used to describe the culturally diverse ways in which Easter is celebrated in different countries around the world. Other reviewers have had mixed responses to this addition at the end of the book. Some people take exception to the inclusion of eggs and Springtime and believe that the book should focus on the story of Jesus only. Personally I didn’t find it to be such a bad thing to read about different cultural practices around the world. Children are immersed in chocolate Easter Eggs in the modern world and may wonder what relevance it has to the story of Jesus. This small inclusion at the end could be useful to use as a means of explaining and discussing the cultural significance of Eggs and Springtime as symbols of Easter.
I’d recommend this book but warn that it is not specifically Catholic. I’m having trouble finding truly Catholic children’s and teen books about Easter so I’ve included this Little Golden Book because the quality of the book is probably a little better than some others I have read lately. There is no reference to Lent or any Catholic Easter traditions that are practiced and their relationship to the Easter Story.
See this story read aloud here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg79zPF79_w
Teacher and Homeschool Ideas:
My thinking here is to teach and reinforce the links between key aspects of the Easter story and Catholic rituals and tradition. So this week I would be teaching about Holy Week:
- A Walk Through Holy Week from Loyola Press: this one takes some preparation but I love it: https://www.loyolapress.com/faith-formation/activities/walk-through-holy-week-activity/
- I like this simple wheel that depicts the main days through the drawing of images and symbols: https://www.catholicteacherresources.com/arts-and-crafts-holy-week-wheel/ You might also make up a banner or simple book using the same ideas.
- Google “Palm Sunday Art” and choose some images that have Jesus entering Jerusalem. You might then have a short conversation with prompts like: why are the people happy? Why are they waving palms? What is Jesus doing? Then ask the children to draw/paint (using various mediums) Jesus riding into Jerusalem. You can even make up your own ‘palms’ using whatever foliage you have nearby and setting them around the room. Remember to read the scriptural account of Jesus entering into Jerusalem: Mark 11 1 – 10.
- Holy Thursday: I recall a great class activity at school: baking and sharing unleavened bread: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptCsC6-Fkjw
- This is an interesting take on Holy Thursday but you need to decide if it is suitable to your children’s age/abilities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN2adnk3vrs