The Monks Make Amends

Author: Sylvia Dorham

Illustrator: Christopher Tupa

Publisher: Tan Books

Age Range: Ages 4 – 7.

This delightful and clever picture book is part of a series of books about a group of Carmelite Monks.  It is based on a real-life monastery in Cheyanne, Wyoming. In this story, there is tension and discord amongst the holy brothers and tempers begin to flair.  The very patient and pious Father Abbot notices that his monks are not happy, so he prays to the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“Father Abbot cries, ‘Hail Mary,

Help me lead this monastery.”

So Father Abbot goes about hearing the whole story of who did this and who did that to who. He then reminds the monks that we have to try as hard as we can to live together in peace. The monks grumble a little but then go to confession and take time to kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament. They all pledge to try to be nicer to each other. The final page is a quote from scripture:

“If it is possible,

as far as it depends on you,

live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18

The message is simple, the story is simple, and the prose is simple.  Using rhyme and rhythm, Sylvia Dorham has cleverly created a story for young children that will engage and hold their interest while teaching them a simple but important lesson about forgiveness and getting along with others. In an interview, Sylvia Dorham spoke of how rhyme is a great way to help children learn.  Having homeschooled her ten children, Sylvia Dorham has learnt what works with children. And this picture book is proof of that.  The rhymes do not strain to work, but flow seamlessly and are really quite clever.

Another great aspect of this picture book is the full page, vibrant illustrations.  Apparently Christopher Tupa spent time at the monastery, observing the monks as they went about their daily business.  He has carefully recreated their clothing and captured the stark interior of the monastery very well.

I have not read the full series of books but I highly recommend that teachers, librarians and homeschoolers purchase this series of Catholic story books to sit on your bookshelves.  They are clever, high quality, entertaining and wonderfully Catholic in their orientation.

You can purchase your copy of The Monks Make Amends HERE.

Homeschool and Teaching Ideas

 

This would be a great book for either:

  • Lessons on vocations
  • Lessons about forgiveness and getting along.

The age range for this story is quite young but I’m sure there would be lots of questions about monks, monasteries and vocations in general.

I’d start with these beautiful images of the Monastery in Wyoming:

http://carmelitemonks.org/

And then this wonderful resource that describes the monk’s habit:

http://www.carmelitemonks.org/HolyHabit.php

Watch the monks in their various jobs:

http://www.carmelitemonks.org/LayBrothers.php

Beautiful footage of the monks adoring the Blessed Sacrament:

http://www.carmelitemonks.org/ChoirMonks.php

In response to these rich and beautiful images, I’d then ask children to either draw or write what it might be like if they were a monk for a day.  What job would they do?  Why that job?  What would it be like to wear the monk’s habit every day?

List out the vocations: Marriage, blessed singleness, priesthood, religious.  You might need to explain what each one is: then have a conversation with children about which vocation they think they might be drawn to.

Have a look at Molly McBride’s picture book review HERE.  I’ve included more ideas for teaching children about vocations.

The Chime Travelers: The Secret of the Shamrock

Author: Lisa M. Hendey

Illustrator: Jenn Bower

Age Range: 6 – 10

Publisher: Servant (an imprint of Franciscan Media)

What a fun and engaging way to learn all about Saint Patrick. The Chime Travelers is a series of five books in which the two main characters travel back in time to meet our most beloved Saints.  Lisa Hendey has done a great job of producing these books for school aged children which introduce the Saints in a way that children will love and understand.

In the first book, The Secret of the Shamrock, we meet the main characters Patrick and Katie Brady and learn a little about their family and parish community.  Then something truly amazing happens in the confessional (where Patrick is catching a quick snooze!). The bells of St Anne’s chime and send Patrick way back in time where he meets a young Saint Patrick in Ireland.

Children will love Patrick and Katie.  Patrick isn’t perfect and by book’s end he’s had to face up to some mean things he’s said and done. Lisa Hendey has cleverly nuanced her characters to make them more believable and easier for children to relate to. The illustrations are simple and will help children to understand what is happening.

Without being obvious, Lisa Hendey is teaching children about various parts of the church: the baptismal font, the pews, the confessional are all weaved seamlessly into the story.  Saint Patrick is portrayed as a devout and humble young man who gives thanks for his blessings – while Patrick (our boy) struggles with being cold, wet, frightened and hungry.   By book’s end, our main character Patrick returns home full of renewed appreciation for family, the Church and God.

I highly recommend these books, particularly this first one.  It is an easy read aloud book, or a relatively easy read for children.  I would love to see this series of books on the library shelves of every Catholic school in Australia.  Why not?  They’re simply a brilliant and entertaining way for Catholic children to learn about our favourite Saints.

And now you can watch Lisa Hendey reading The Secret of the Shamrock.  Thank you so much, Lisa.  Here is part one; just follow the links for the whole story!

For homeschoolers and teachers:

Lisa Hendey has included several chapters at the end of the book:  All about the real Saint Patrick, Saint Patrick’s traditional prayer, and a list of discussion questions for parents or teachers to use with young readers. Thank you, Lisa!

Activities I would do as a homeschool mom/mum would include:

  • Dress up like Saint Patrick (which would involve a little research to see what he might have worn). Don’t forget his shepherd’s crook.
  • Making or drawing a shamrock and reciting the meaning of the Blessed Trinity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7IJda-4kY8   You might try reading page 94 of the book again if you have trouble simplifying the meaning of the Holy Trinity.
  • If you have a group of children who like imaginative play, you could encourage them to act out the story – maybe they could film themselves.
  • For other children, rewriting this story with themselves meeting Saint Patrick would be fun. It all depends on your child or children.

Check out the wonderful resources that Lisa Hendey has provided on  https://chimetravelerkids.com/