The Easter Story: Little Golden Books

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

 

He’s Risen! He’s Alive and Jesus Washes Peter’s Feet

He’s Risen!  He’s Alive!

Author: Joanne E. Bader

Illustrator: Richard Heroldt

Publisher: Arch Books

Age Range: 5 – 9

 

And

 

Jesus Washes Peter’s Feet

Author: Glynes Balec

Illustrator: Unada Gliewe

Publisher: Arch Books

Age Range: 5-9

 

I eagerly anticipated these two little books from Arch Books.  They were really cheap for a start, which makes a difference here in Australia when compared to some of the exorbitant prices we pay for Catholic children’s books from overseas. So, when they arrived, I sat down to peruse them with a cheerfully hopeful heart.  Alas!  I was very disappointed.

Now people who have read these little reviews that I write will know that I very rarely say anything negative.  If I don’t particularly think a book is appropriate or good enough, I usually just don’t talk about it.  I decided to make an exception for these two little books.  I didn’t like them, and I want other people to be aware of what you are getting before you invest.

He’s Risen! He’s Alive! was published eighteen years ago.  The rhyming couplets are mediocre at best and positively terrible sometimes.  Like this:

“At break of dawn that Sunday morn,

The first day of the week,

Two women went to see the grave

To take another peek.”

To take another peek?  Seriously?

I honestly think that the story could have been more carefully crafted without rhyming couplets.  My sense of the writing is that children will have trouble understanding some of the story because the words are obviously straining to fit the rhyme. The illustrations are OK; but the overall feel of the book is simply – second rate.

 

Moving along to Jesus washes Peter’s Feet.  It was published twenty one years ago and It’s downright terrible.  I’ve never read words that strain so desperately hard to fit together and fail.  Oh my goodness!  Once again, this story could have been more simply conveyed without the attempts at rhyming.  When compared to the beauty and simplicity of Laura Alary’s words in the Easter book, “Make room: A child’s guide to Lent and Easter”… well there is no comparison.

 

The illustrations in “Jesus Washes Peterr’s Feet” were more consistent and endearing than the first book, but they don’t make up for the bad storytelling.

What these books indicate to me is that there is a desperate need for more Catholic children’s stories about Easter.  Rhyming couplets work for some stories, but I felt that the style of writing was actually detracting from the story rather than aiding in the storytelling. I don’t recommend them. At all.