Whether you're about to start Lent as an Eastern Orthodox Christian (we start Lent and celebrate Easter - Pascha - according to the Julian Calendar), or are anticipating Holy Week as a Western Catholic or Protestant Christian (according to the Gregorian calendar), I think you're going to like what I've got in my little book stack today!
1. Lent! Wonderful Lent! a picture book by Debra Sancer (ages 4-10)
2. Queen Abigail the Wise, a chapter story by Grace Brooks (ages 8-12)
3. The Mystery of Art, a meditative book by Jonathan Jackson (teens and up)
4. The Life of Christ in Icons, a Bible story board book by Marina Paliaki (preschool)
Lent! Wonderful Lent! is like a mini Lenten catechism for kids. The author, Debra Sancer (a good friend who used to go to our Parish!), starts the book with a beautiful explanation of repentance, and then highlights each Sunday of Lent, starting with Forgiveness Vespers.
Sweetly illustrated by Amy Stokes, this book can be approached in whatever way best suits your family. With younger children, you might read from it on Saturdays or Sundays as Lent progresses, in preparation of the services. Older kids might like it read aloud in one sitting as an introduction (or review) of what each Sunday of Lent will focus on.
Debra also devotes a couple of pages as an explanation as to why we sing an Akathist Hymn to the Virgin Mary in prayer services during Lent.
I was sooo excited when Queen Abigail the Wise arrived in the mail a few months ago! For two reasons: reason #1 - because the author, Grace Brooks, a dear friend of mine who was in our Parish and sang in choir with me for many years; and reason #2 - because it's a chapter book about young Orthodox girls - and we need good books for the 8-12 age group!
In a moment you'll see why I was saving my review for Lent...
Grace has written a fun book. Her engaging story involves a ten-year-old girl named Abigail who faces ten-year-old challenges.
Our young heroine is grappling with things like how to pay attention in church, how to understand her faith, and how to interact in a loving way with her family and her friends. Abigail wants to do the right thing, but faces constant distractions! She wants to do something important, but is challenged with insecurities. She likes being a leader, but is struggling with jealousy.
Abigail is sure if could just have an icon of her patron saint, maybe she could learn to be more like her. When her priest encourages her to first try to help people in their parish, she elicits the help of some of the other girls in her church (even though she doesn't know all of them very well), and they form the "Every Tuesday Girls Club".
You'll be swept right along with happens after that. The story begins at the start of Lent (with a fly, and the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Yes, you read that correctly!), and it ends with Pascha.
As you can see, the girls in my parish are devouring this book! One told me, "It was AMAZING." Another, in true "Abigail style" said she started reading it, lost it, found it, started it again, and lost it again (but really likes it so far).
Queen Abigail the Wise would be the perfect companion for your daughter during her own Lenten journey - or as a Pascha gift! You can find "Queen Abigail the Wise" on Facebook or her own website, here.
If you have a young adult in your life who happens to be an artist, drama student, or musician, The Mystery of Art by Jonathan Jackson would make a wonderful Lenten read (or Pascha gift) for them. I've given this book to both my adult sons.
[In case you don't know Jonathan Jackson, he began his career in Hollywood over twenty years ago on the soap opera General Hospital. He has also performed in many feature films, including The Deep End of the Ocean, Tuck Everlasting, and Insomnia, and is currently one of the stars of the ABC primetime drama, Nashville, a show centered on the inner workings of the Nashville music scene. Along with acting, Jonathan is also the lead singer of the band Enation and the author of Book of Solace and Madness, which was published in 2012. Jonathan is an Orthodox Christian and resides in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Elisa, and their three children.]
I was excited to find this gem for my little grandsons at All Merciful Saviour Monastery during my recent trip to Seattle. This board book is a perfect size for preschoolers - roughly 8 1/2" by 7 1/2 " - so that the icon details show up nicely.
And its sturdy pages makes it a perfect companion in church for little hands during Lent and Holy Week. There are questions throughout, that make the book very interactive for home or church. (Any of the three books in the series would also make perfect gifts for little ones' Pascha baskets!)
The gift of Lent is that it is a time of preparation - to draw closer to God and to acknowledge that He is the reason that we exist. We need to seize this opportunity with our children to grow spiritually, so that it doesn't become just a "what-food-are-you-giving-up-for-Lent?" experience.
I hope you liked my little Lenten stack o'books! Go here for my other Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha posts...as you prepare your hearts during this holy season.