Monday, August 3, 2015

A Hipster Review of The Secret of the Shamrock

My kids love books.

So much so, in fact, that I had to put a giant bookshelf in our garage just to hold the many titles that their own bookshelf could no longer handle.

We read all kinds of different books with them. Everrything from Elephant & PIggie, to The Mouse and the Motorcycle, to Poppy, to Wild Kratts easy readers (again and again and again), and on and on and on. 

When I heard that my dear friend (and boss over at Catholic Mom) Lisa Hendey was putting out a series of kids' books, I knew we had to get in on the action. My five year old, especially, is a mega-reader, and enjoys learning about his faith and the saints (as well as anything about wild creatures) while kicking back with a good book. 

Up until now, St. Francis and the Wolf by Richard Egislski was easily his fav when it came to stuff on the saints. 

After reading Chime Travelers #1, however, there's a new star on the bookshelf. 

I have to frame this book review with the starting point of how weird it can feel to be truly Catholic in today's culture. 

As an adult, that is something I have really come to enjoy, but as a kid it can feel somewhat odd and alienating. From wondering why friends and cousins don't go to Mass on Sundays to finding it odd that prayers aren't said before meals at a birthday party, I'm guessing kids can really sense the "I'm different" feeling quite often, thanks to being a part of a strong Catholic family. 

I'm not sure if they notice it when it comes to reading books, but I sure do. 

It is very rare to find any books, let alone kids books, that tell a story from the point of view of a Catholic family. And in those that do, the family's Catholicism is nothing more than a quick note. It doesn't tend to make up who they are, and the characters we come across rarely live and breath the Catholic faith in the way that we do as an actual Catholic family in real life. 

This is the first thing that struck me when reading The Secret of the Shamrock with my kids. 

The faith is right there in the pages, and the kids recognize it. From the opening tale of a Baptism, to the pro-life message of adoption, to being at ease with a Priest, to genuflecting in front of the Tabernacle, to heading out the door for Confession, Lisa Hendey's opening book to the Chime Travelers series is flat out Catholic. 

And it feels good!

It feels even better when you see that the book never becomes preachy. It finds that perfect balance between being authentically Catholic, and also just being normal. That isn't an easy task, but Lisa pulls it off with great success. 

She even sneaks in a little good ol' Catholic guilt when Patrick feels presured to treat another kid badly!

This balancing act is helped out by showcasing the struggles that kids deal with when it comes to faith. The characters in the opening book deal with the dry feeling associated with prayers where you don't feel God is listening, the feeling of not wanting to go to Church...again, and so much more. It hits these feelings with an openness and honesty that kids can relate to. 

Even at the age of five, kids have questions about their faith, and this book helps them to put words to those questions and feelings.

The story of heading back in time to meet St. Patrick was one that my five year old loved. I could tell that he was excited by the fact that he knew who Shep was way before Patrick figured it out! And the twist that Patrick went forward in time without going all the way back to St. Anne's, to meet Shep after he became a Bishop, really made him excited. 

The change that we see in Patrick once he finally does return to his time and family is so great. He enters the story with normal questions and feelings, has an encounter with a man of epic faith in God, and comes back changed. It goes a long way to show that if you give everything to God and radically put your trust in Him, it changes you. 

Also, the dicussion questions are clutch. I was ready to jump ahead to Chime Travelers #2 one night before bed, and my fve year old demanded that we hit up the discussion questions before even thinking moving on. And for me, listening to his answers to the questions was a real joy. 

Kids know so much more and think so much more deeply than we would ever know, and these questions opened the door to that experience for us. 

So, thank you, Lisa, for writing these books! 

We have already jumped into #2, knocking it out one chapter per night before bed, and it has been such a blessing to share these stories with our sons. 

And I'm not just saying that because you're my boss...

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