Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Feast of St. Stephen!

Saint Stephen is commemorated on December 26 in the West and on December 27 in the East.  At the bottom of this post, I have linked two excellent books that we read to our children about King Wenceslas, who himself died a martyr's death and became a saint...

Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shown the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gathering winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou know'st it, telling:
yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain,
right against the forest fence
by Saint Agnes fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine
when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together
through the rude wind's wild lament
and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart, I know not how.
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps my good page,
tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's step he trod,
where the snow lay dented.
Heat was in the very sod
which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor
shall yourselves find blessing!

STEPHEN'S FEAST by Jean Richardson, illustrations by Alice Englander
Stephen's Feast
"The carol about "Good King Wenceslas'' is expanded into a sentimental story in which a rather thoughtless young page is taken along to see how the less fortunate live; the bounty he and his king take to the humble cottage is shared in a sumptuous feast after the king himself builds up the fire. The telling is adequate if prosaic; it does serve to explicate John Mason Neale's verse, which younger children may find obscure. Englander's attractive illustrations set the story appropriately in medieval Eastern Europe; the page (also named Stephen--it's his birthday as well as the saint's day) looks like an appealing blond member of a modern third grade, while the grandly clothed king is thoughtful and suitably benign. Not essential, but enjoyable." (ages 4-8) -- quote from Kirkus Associates.

GOOD KING WENCESLAS  by Pauline Baynes
Good King Wenceslas (First Books (Lutterworth))
Pauline Baynes' (Chronicles of Narnia) beautiful Byzantine-influenced illustrations accompany her exciting telling of the story behind the carol of  King Wenceslas.  (Ages 8 and up)  Her historical note at the end of the book says:  "Wenceslas probably lived between AD 907-929, and began ruling Bohemia about AD 925.  He founded many churches, but his attempt to convert all his subjects to Christianity was not popular.  The precise date of this assassination is not certain, but it was probably September or December AD 929.  He was later canonised, and became a patron saint of Bohemia.


  1. I never knew Pauline Baynes had illustrated a book about St. Wenceslas. I need to order it! We've been happy, though, with this version we read to our kiddos: http://www.amazon.com/Good-King-Wenceslas-John-Neale/dp/0802852092/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1293469905&sr=1-1 . It is simply the words to the carol with beautiful illustrations. There is a brief historical note as well.

  2. Brian - Thanks - I googled it and I love the illustrations in the edition you have! And I know you won't be disappointed with Pauline Baynes' telling and artwork. :)