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.

Molly McBride and the Purple Habit.

Author: Jean Schoonover-Egolf

Illustrator: Jean Schoonover-Egolf

Age Range: 3 – 8 years.

Publisher: Our Sunday Visitor (first thee books) and Perpetual Light Publishing (fourth book).

The very talented Jeanie Egolf has produced a cute series of books about little Molly McBride.  Molly is five years old and she isn’t having a very good day when we first meet her. Her older sister Terry is getting a lot of attention because it’s the day of her First Communion!  And poor Molly is feeling a little left out!

Younger children will immediately relate to Molly from the first sentence: “Molly McBride cried and cried.”  The world can seem like an unfair place sometimes.  We soon learn that Molly wants to wear her purple nun’s habit and head scarf, but she’s not allowed to!  This is such a delightfully written story that captures your heart from the opening lines.

Jean Schoonover-Egolf is a talented artist who has illustrated her own book.  The illustrations perfectly complement the story and convey the dreamy worldview of five-year-old Molly. Egolf has her own website with additional fun cartoons and illustrations of Molly McBride. https://jeanieegolf.myportfolio.com/molly-mcbride-cartoons.

The purpose of this little series of books is to encourage vocations.  Little Molly McBride already wants to be a sister with her ‘special friends’ the sisters of the Children of Mary https://www.childrenofmary.net/, which is a religious order in Ohio, USA. Molly wears the same purple habit that the sisters wear and doesn’t really want to take it off – ever.  This is a lovely way to raise children’s awareness of religious vocations, and to begin the process of teaching children about the significance of Holy Communion.

This is a pretty little book that will be a favourite family read aloud.  Buy the other books in the series, and you can follow Molly McBride as she starts school, has a party for her friends and then stars in the Christmas Pageant! You can purchase Molly McBride and the Purple Habit Here or from Our Sunday Visitor,  Here.                                 

Homeschool/Teacher Ideas: Introducing vocations and religious life.

  • Copy and paste the link for two lessons with worksheets for K – Grade 3 from the USA:      https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/v ocations/educators-and-youth-leaders/lesson-plans/lesson-plans-for-national-vocation-awareness-week-grades-k-8
  • Another comprehensive list of lessons for kindergarten and primary school aged children (from Detroit, USA: explore the website) : http://www.detroitpriest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/V-Lessons-and-Activities-for-Vocations.pdf
  • A short video for older students to explain what vocations are HERE
  • A quick way for teachers/homeschool parents to learn about Australia’s first saint: Saint Mary MacKillop who founded Australia’s first order of sisters HERE
  • Then read about what other schools are doing with “Junior Joeys” which is an extra-curricular program for Grades 4-6. Children meet at lunchtime once per month and plan ways to Learn, Pray and Practice in the spirit of Saint Mary MacKillop and Australia’s first order of sisters. Children might write prayers for a special school Mass or fundraise for the many works and missions that the Sisters of St Joseph started. This is a great resource for a more ‘hands on’ approach to learning about the work of the Sisters of St Joseph: Here
  • For homeschoolers there are many ways you might encourage your children to emulate Saint Mary MacKillop’s call to “find happiness in making others happy” and “never see a need without doing something about it”.
    • Older children might be encouraged to organize an afternoon of indoor activities for younger children – teaching leadership, responsibility and responding to a need.
    • There are plenty of ways that children can fundraise including washing cars, selling cakes and putting on a show. Funds can be directed to the work of any local religious order.
  • As part of vocations awareness week, you might invite a brother, sister or priest to talk with the children – I’m sure each Catholic school will organize their own program. For homeschoolers, raising awareness of religious vocations might include inviting a brother, sister or priest to your family home for dinner or a special occasion. Involvement in Parish life is also a great way for your children to meet and get to know people in religious orders.