Friday, March 14, 2014

St. Patrick for little ones

I'm still trying to figure out our holiday traditions as a little family of five. Last year, I was put in charge of my then preschooler's St. Patrick's Day party. While it never phased me growing up, the odd pairing of pagan mascots (leprechauns, Easter bunnies, Christmas trees...) with the Christian sources of these holidays (St. Patrick, Jesus' resurrection, Jesus's incarnation) is something I'm grappling with as a mom eager to introduce her three sons to the gospel.  I don't want to suck all the fun out of the holidays, but I don't want to perpetuate the strictly shallow version of these celebrations that should have a rich, spiritual significance. I also don't want our family celebrations to center around gluttony and greed and superstition. Ok. That was my moment on the soapbox. Let's talk books.

For now, I've got two recommendations for introducing little ones (and yourself) to Saint Patrick, the first missionary to Ireland.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola

I purchased Tomie dePaola's illustrated paperback Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland last year to read to the students in Stephen's class during the party. The book contains the story of Patrick's boyhood capture from his home in Northern Britain and his years as a slave in Ireland, his conversion, escape and eventual return to bring the gospel to his former captors. I'm not a history buff like the hubby, but these events seemed true to what I've heard and read about the real Patrick. I did have to paraphrase some passages for the preschool audience, and I adjusted the vocabulary a bit too (Irish raiders became pirates). The end of the book also contains a section with some popular legends (and more fantastical) legends about Patrick, including him driving all the snakes out of the country. I appreciated that while these legends are included, the author makes it clear that it's up to you as a reader to determine whether they are true. DePaola is the master storyteller and illustrator of a ton of children's books, including the Strega Nona series that was popular when I was a kid. Perhaps the only downside, from my point of view, is that the devout Catholic illustrator makes Patrick look rather monkish and some pages show him wearing a bishop's mitre. I would have preferred a more natural depiction of Patrick so my sons could connect with him more. However, this minor criticism is not enough to keep me from heartily recommending this book as a great way to show children that St. Patrick's day is not about leprechauns and luck. If you're in Hopkinsville, our library has two copies of this book on shelf as of this morning.

Saint Patrick: Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael J. McHugh

A few years ago, my husband and I listened to the unabridged audio version of Michael J. McHugh's biography, Saint Patrick: Pioneer Missionary to Ireland, which is geared toward children in grade school and jr. high. To be honest, it was my first real introduction to Ireland's patron saint, and before listening to the book, I never knew that Patrick was not actually Irish himself. I loved the author's emphasis on Patrick's prayers, visions and faith in God. McHugh also included many inspiring miracles in his telling of the story of this humble missionary and church planter. Again, though I can't vouch for the scholarship of this book, I feel that the book's emphasis is to honor an important figure in church history. I recommend this book to parents of older children-- perhaps as part of a Christian home school curriculum. Again, Hoptown friends, this one's on shelf in the AV department of our local library.

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