Thursday, June 22, 2017

Explore nature, poetry, saints with new children's books

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By Regina Lordan Catholic News Service
The following books are suitable for summer reading:
"How to be a Hero: Train with the Saints" by Julia Harrell, illustrated by Chad Thompson. Pauline Kids (Boston, 2017). 176 pp., $14.95.
This summer elementary-school readers can take a timeout from preparing for the next grade or athletic event, and train to become a saint by using the virtues as a guide. Organized by mini-biographies, reflections and questions, "How to be a Hero" explores the virtuous lives of St. John Paul II, St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Charbel Makhlouf among many others. The book includes discussions on the cardinal, theological and "little" virtues, and can be read daily or weekly as a part of a summer religious curriculum. Ages 9-11.
"The Blue Hour" by Isabelle Simler. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017). 42 pp., $19.
Rarely does a book so beautifully capture with images and prose the majesty that is God's creation of nature. "The Blue Hour" journeys through dusk when all is still and quiet. Animals of all shades of blue are cloaked in the blue shade of night as they creep through forests, climb amid trees and dive into the ocean. The illustrations are stunning, and the language is calming. The animals featured, such as the blue-tailed damselfly, indigo bunting and blue racer snake, highlight the gorgeous shades of just one color that appear in nature. Ages 4-8.
"Mary and The Little Shepherds of Fatima" by Marlyn Monge and Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, illustrated by Maria Joao Lopes. Pauline Kids (Boston, 2017). 48 pp., $14.95.
This sweetly illustrated book tells young readers about the story of Our Lady of Fatima and the three young children who, unbeknown to them at the time, radically inspired many in their devotion to Mary. As told in the book, a sister, brother and cousin were shepherding their flock of sheep when an angel appeared to them. Then, on May 13, 1917, Mary appeared to the children for the first of several times. A timely read, "Mary and The Little Shepherd of Fatima" honors of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions in Fatima. In May, Pope Francis visited the Portuguese city and declared as saints Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto, both of whom had died from illnesses as young children. Ages 5-8.
"A Muslim Family's Chair for the Pope: A True Story from Bosnia and Herzegovina" by Stefan Salinas. Camelopardalis (San Francisco, 2017). 48 pp., $16.99.
How did a Muslim carpenter from a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina come to make the chair for the papal Mass during Pope Francis' visit there in 2015? A brave idea, a skilled worker and more than 2,000 hours of hard work led to a collaborative masterpiece. Written from the perspective of Salim Hajderovac, the cheerful and humble carpenter, this book is a wonderful story about interreligious teamwork. Working closely with his good friend the local parish priest, Hajderovac's brazen idea came to fruition. Within the context of a true story, children will learn a few basic truths about Catholicism and Islam. Ages 6-10.
"I Like, I Don't Like" by Anna Baccelliere, illustrated by Alessandro Lewis and Alessandra Panzeri. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017). 28 pp., $16.
Topics such as child labor, poverty and slavery are not readily addressed in children's literature or easily discussed, but they are a part of the church's teachings and work for social justice. "I Like, I Don't Like" uses two strikingly different perspectives on the same object to show how children from the same world face very different realities. Told in images and only a few words, the book shows how one child plays freely with a soccer ball while another distressingly sews the balls together. On another page, a child leisurely stretches out on a rug while another child weaves a rug together. An astute child with guidance from an adult can use this book to open up discussions about solidarity and compassion. Ages 5-9.
"Brigid and the Butter" by Pamela Love, illustrated by Apryl Stott. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2017) 25 pp., $13.95.
Pamela Love retells the legend of St. Brigid in this brightly illustrated hardcover book. As a young servant girl, St. Brigid heard St. Patrick, then just a local bishop, preach about Jesus feeding an entire crowd with just a young boy's lunch. Inspired by the boy's generosity but with no substantive food to share herself, St. Brigid gave all that she had to a poor woman. As the legend goes, God blessed St. Brigid's selfless generosity by giving her two heaping bowls of butter. For young lads also interested in Irish legends and saints, "Patrick and the Fire" by Cornelia Mary Bilinsky and illustrated by Maggie Coburn, also by Pauline Books and Media, is a short story about St. Patrick's explanation of the Holy Trinity to a king. Ages 4-8.
"Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets" by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Candlewick Press. (Somerville, Massachusetts, 2017). 48 pp., $16.99.
Colorfully illustrated by award-winning fine artist Ekua Holmes, this book celebrates 20 poets with works inspired by the poets' unique styles. "Out of Wonder" highlights legendary writers including Robert Frost, Rumi and Emily Dickinson as well as contemporary poets, such as Terrance Hayes and Judith Wright. The book is a treasure of inspiration, art and wonder to educate and inspire children to write poetry. A brave undertaking masterfully achieved, Alexander and his colleagues successfully pair poetry with beautiful artwork while teaching the reader about the poets themselves. All aspiring poets, young and old, should add this one to their bookshelves. Ages 7 and up.
"Jesus's Story" illustrated by Virginia Noe. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Massachusetts,2017). 18 pp., $14.99.
Reminiscent of the tender Precious Moments dolls, the illustrations in this sturdy and sweet board book for young children are darling. Gentle pictures and simple narration cover the story of Jesus, from the Angel Gabriel's visit to Mary through Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection to Pentecost. Ages 1-3.
"The Suitcase -- A Story About Giving" by Jane G. Meyer, illustrated by Chiara Pasqualotto. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Massachusetts,2017). 32 pp., $16.99.
Thomas was a little bit different. Energetic and typically untypical, Thomas would interview his pet goat and line up blocks one after the other after the other. But one day Thomas did something stranger than usual. He showed up for dinner with a suitcase in hand and declared that he was going to the kingdom of heaven. What Thomas packed inside was a loving and generous expression of faith that will leave an impression on readers. The main character is influenced by the everyday experiences that author Jane G. Meyer has as the mother of a child with high-functioning autism. "The Suitcase" was published in April for National Autism Awareness Month. Ages 7-9.
Lordan, a mother of three, has master's degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Author explores nun’s path to martyrdom

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On Thursday, Dec. 4, 1980, the bodies of four women were found in a shallow roadside grave in El Salvador. It became clear after the autopsies that two of them had been raped before being murdered. There were over 8,000 murders that year in El Salvador, but these four victims stood out because three of them were Catholic nuns, the fourth was a lay missionary and all of them were Americans.
"A Radical Faith" tells the story of the eldest victim, Sister Maura Clarke, who was a Maryknoll nun. She had been in El Salvador only four months, but she had been a missionary sister serving in Nicaragua for 20 years.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Insightful look at 'radicals' shows link between faith, social action

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Today as racism, sexism and electoral politics divide millions of Americans, the distinguished religious scholar Albert J. Raboteau offers moving accounts of seven 20th-century activists whose commitment to social justice is exemplary.
"American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals & Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice" demonstrates how Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, A.J. Muste, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Trappist Father Thomas Merton, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer all were compelled by "a deeply felt compassion for those suffering injustice."
Through their social activism, which included writing, speaking, organizing and picketing and other kinds of demonstrating, they changed Americans' views toward the wrongs inflicted by war, racism and poverty.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bishop provides incisive look at Latino experience in U.S.

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Anyone looking for a primer on the Mexican-American (and by extension, the Latino) experience in the United States should read "Power From the Margins." The author, retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, was born of Mexican parents in Bay City, Texas, along the Mexican border.
Bishop Ramirez blends his personal experiences as a Mexican-American with his pastor's knowledge of how Latinos have been and are contributing to U.S. secular and Catholic society. He also dissects how they think, act and survive in a secular atmosphere and church culture often alien to their understandings of society and religion.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Journey through the theological life of the retired pope

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Peter Seewald's interview of Pope Benedict, which follows from previous interviews and works including "Salt of the Earth," offers readers a journey through the theological life of the retired pope. This includes thoughts on significant individuals such as Jesuit Father Karl Rahner, Father Hans Kung and St. John Paul II.
The first part of the book highlights a world radically different from our own, that of Bavarian Catholicism in the mid-20th century. Its piety centered on family, village and Christ.
Joseph Ratzinger stepped out of this world into the seminary and then higher theological studies in Munich. He relished this world.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

With book on sex abuse, author hopes to help himself, others heal

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In the 1950s, Norbert Krapf was sexually abused -- along with scores of other boys -- by a priest of the Diocese of Evansville, Indiana, who was loved and respected by the community.
After five decades of silence, Krapf -- a retired professor, author and award-winning former Indiana Poet Laureate -- confronted the monster of his past both by outing the then-deceased priest to the bishop and, in 2012, publishing a book of poems called "Catholic Boy Blues" to help himself and other victims heal.
This year, Krapf published "Shrinking the Monster: Healing the Wounds of Our Abuse." In Krapf's own words, the book is a "prose memoir about the experience of writing those poems, with an emphasis on the process of my recovery from the abuse." That experience, as outlined in the book, was a journey of pain, struggles, victories and healing.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book on parish leadership may be required reading

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No single thread connects the Catholic parishes that are vibrant and thriving in the 21st century. "There is no 'silver bullet' for doing great parish ministry in the Catholic Church today," writes William E. Simon Jr.
Still, the research that prompted him to write "Great Catholic Parishes" revealed four important characteristics of these parishes, namely that they "(1) share leadership, (2) foster spiritual maturity and plan for discipleship, (3) excel on Sundays, and (4) evangelize in intentional, structured ways."
In 2012 the book's well-known businessman author, who ran for governor of California in 2002, founded an organization called Parish Catalyst, "devoted to supporting the health and development of Catholic parishes." This book demonstrates that Simon's interests stretch well beyond the fields of politics or financial investing.