Thursday, May 04, 2006

Month of Mary and Almost-Summer Read-alouds

The Church sets aside the Month of May as Mary’s month. Many churches and parochial schools sponsor May crownings, rosaries and other devotionals to the Mother of God. A great book to read-aloud to the family to further this respect and reverence for Mary is Mary: The Mother of Jesus written by Tomie dePaola. DePaola, of Irish-Italian descent has a great love of the Blessed Mother and this comes out clearly in his book about Mary based on facts and legends. As always, dePaola’s illustrations make this a delightful picture book for even the youngest to enjoy with his trademark pale colors and gentle drawings.

On May 18, 1920, God gave the world the future Pope John Paul II. A book of quotes from the Pope to children would be a great way to remember him during his birthday month. For the Children: Words of Love and Inspiration from His Holiness Pope John II has the pontiff’s provocative thoughts on leisure, work, blessings and other words of wisdom, all given at one time or another to children. The book is illustrated with photographs of John Paul II hugging, kissing and loving the children. A great short biography of the pope’s life, published by Pauline Media is titled, Karol from Poland: the Life of John Paul II for Children.

Two classic picture books are wonderful for quick read-alouds and to help the children get through the end-of-the-school-year-blues. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is a delightful story about picking berries with your mama – whether you’re a baby human or a baby bear. Punctuated with McCloskey’s drawings of his own daughter Sal, this book is a reminder to us all that berry-picking season has arrived. To help the children start thinking about what to do during the summer, no book is more inspirational than Alice McLerran’s Roxaboxen. Take a deserted plot of land, kids of all ages, and some imaginative direction from the older children, and you’ve got a plan for action all summer long. The illustrations by award-winning Barbara Cooney really help this classic come alive.

For longer reads – now that the evenings are warmer and lighter – a recently published book is destined to be a classic pre-summer “let’s get in the mood” family read-aloud. The Penderwicks is author Jeanne Birdsall’s first book (and hopefully not her last). Written with an ear for children’s dialogue this is the story of four sisters who spend three weeks of their summer at a cottage. Although this sounds mundane and typical – this book is an original! Chock full of family fun, sibling rivalry and bits of tension, this novel has all my children clamoring “one more chapter, please”. The scrapes these girls and their friends get into are classic kid stuff and just good clean fun, with no negative messages. The basic theme is one of family love and child-created (in lieu of technology- or little-league created) adventure. Definitely a classic-in-the-making; start it tonight.

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