Saint Story Collections

Around the Year Once Upon a Time Saints

Author(s): 
Ethel Pochocki
Illustrator(s): 
Ben Hatke
Copyright: 
2009
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
211 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a lovely gem of a book, covering about thirty saints, organized according to the calendar year, by their feast day. Like her previous publications from Bethlehem Books (Once Upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints), these stories are intended to capture the essence of holy men and women through the sometimes fantastical stories that are likely to capture the imagination of young children. Here is what the author wrote about her own stories:

Fairy tales clear the way for sanctity. They are the child's first morality play, clear-cut, no-nonsense black and white, good and evil, life and death - with a bit of fun thrown in to alleviate the pain. The lives of the saints, so filled with derring-do, gaiety, charm and courage, are all the more fantastic because the persons are real, even though they might seem right out of the pages of Hans Christian Andersen.

You will not find dates and statistics here, except where they seem necessary to explain how or why a saint got to his particular spot. And I have used the embroidery of legend because I feel that under its eye-catching trivia, there is the good homespun of fact. Sometimes it has been hard to discover which facts are the real facts. In reading six books about one saint, you may have as many versions of his or her death - he may have died on the battlefield, in the arms of a wife or son, pinned to a tree with seven arrows... or a combination of all three.

There was a little bit in the story of Juan Diego that bothered me (a little off on the Aztec story) and an aspect of the story of St. Nicholas that I thought pretty disturbing for young children. These little things make it probably better for a read-aloud with younger children (and really, it makes an excellent read-aloud!). A few spots made me furrow my brow or seemed just a little too silly, but these have been more than compensated for by some incredibly beautiful stories that are really well done.

One story that particular stood out for me was the one St. Paul Miki and St. Charles Lwanga. It has an absolutely stunning and incredibly appropriate explanation of the martyrs for children. Fabulous stuff and my children and I enjoyed the book very much.

Oh yes, and Ben Hatke's illustrations (he also illustrated Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman) are wonderful!

Review Date: 
8-4-2009
Reviewed by: 

Heroes of God's Church

Author(s): 
Father P. Henry Matimiore, S.T.D.
Copyright: 
1931
Publisher: 
Neumann Press
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
286 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

"In writing this volume, the purpose has been to acquaint our children with biographies that will have some particular influence on the development of their characters. Each story has been planned as a real character-training project, not merely as a reading lesson to inspire admiration for faith and religious heroism." (From the Foreword)

I think the author does an admirable job in achieving his purpose. We are shown how the Saints were real people who struggled with things like bad tempers and parents who just didn't understand their religious fervor. Some became great saints by just doing the little everyday things well and out of love while others showed incredible heroism through the most agonizing tortures and martyrdom.

The book covers 25 Saint stories, from 6 to 18 pages each, with comprehension questions for each story. We are presented with a variety of Saints of every age with a true diversity of personalities, difficulties to overcome and social classes. The chronological order and selection would also make this a very worthwhile supplement to a study of World History.

The comprehension questions seem suited to mid-grade school (perhaps grades 3-6) but the stories themselves would be appropriate for a wide age range (probably from first grade through adult if care is taken with regard to some of the "scarier" martyr stories for the very young ones).

I would like to note that there is an incident related in the story of St. Patrick that I think might be disturbing to children and I suspect that it's either a legend or there are parts of the story missing. I recommend that parents read that one story ahead of time in order to decide how to handle it with their own children.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

In God's Garden

Author(s): 
Amy Steedman
Publisher: 
Roman Catholic Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
142 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

"Long ago in a far distant land there lived a boy called Offero." So opens the story of St. Christopher, one of fourteen saint stories in In God's Garden. Written in a friendly story teller format, the book's primary audience is younger children, approximately preschool-age to 3rd grade.

Usually starting with the saint's birth and childhood, the story introduces children to legends and famous stories about that saint. Because of the fantastic quality of some of the stories, the parent may want to mention that some of the legends may not be true, like St. George killing a dragon, but we do know that the person was holy. In fact, the author does admit this in a few places when she comments, "Whether all this really happened we do not know; but one thing we are certain of . . . ."

Similar in style to Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki, the stories hold the reader's attention to the last word. Although the stories include facts from the saint's life, the stories are not biographies. They are stories written to introduce children to the saints and inspire them on to imitate their lives of holiness.

In the center of the book are color reproductions of paintings of the Saints by famous Italian artists such as Titian, Fra Angelico, Giotto, and others. The artwork is not dazzling compared to the bold, vibrant colors of some of today's picture books. They are, however, a way to introduce your children to some of the outstanding artists of the past.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Binding details: Gold embossed hardback

Review Date: 
11-22-04
Reviewed by: 

Once Upon a Time Saints

Book cover: 'Once Upon a Time Saints'
Author(s): 
Ethel Pochocki
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

In the Bethlehem Books catalog, this book is recommended for ages 5 - 10, but I think many of the stories will be appealing even for preschoolers. The stories have been carefully chosen to be interesting to children at the "fairy tale age". Many of the saints chosen are knights and princesses with adventures and lessons to share with your children. Some parents may not like the informality of her story-telling style, but I think most will appreciate using this book to foster an interest in the Saints at a very young age.

The second volume, More Once Upon a Time Saints, brings us more stories of the saints.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Once Upon a Time Saints (audio book)

Book cover: 'Once Upon a Time Saints (audio book)'
Author(s): 
Ethel Pochocki
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Once Upon a Time Saints is a collection of stories about the lives of the saints written as stories and not biographies to capture the attention of young children, from preschool through the early grades. Intertwined in the stories are mixtures of legend, fact, and humor, embellishing on the human qualities of the saints and presenting them as not mere statues, but real people. Reading with expression and drama, the narrator brings these stories to life, allowing us to listen to the book as it should be read, out loud. In addition, each story begins and ends with background music.

On the first CD, we hear the introduction to the book and meet seven saints, including Alice, Ambrose, Anne, and Barbara. The second CD includes nine more saints, such as Clement, Comgall, Dorothy, Genevieve, and Hubert.

If you are wondering what to do with your children on long (and not so long) trips in the car, listening to these saint stories is a nice way to keep everyone happy.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

2 CDs, Approximately 100 minutes (Unabridged)

Review Date: 
9-2-04
Reviewed by: 

Reading Comprehension: Stories of the Saints

Author(s): 
Elaine Woodfield
Review: 

Although this series of Saint Stories from Catholic Heritage Curricula is listed on our Reading Comprehension page, they should also not be overlooked as really wonderful stories for their own sake. The stories are well-written and contain very interesting details about the lives of the saints that I haven't seen elsewhere. Highly Recommended!

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Saints for Sinners

Author(s): 
Archbishop Alban Goodier
ISBN: 
193 318 428
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Sophia Institute Press
Binding: 
Sewn Softcover
Number of pages: 
178 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

There is nothing quite like reading the lives of the saints to give us hope and inspiration. Saints for Sinners from Sophia Institute Press brings many of these inspiring and holy lives to the reader drawing both from well-known and obscure saints' lives. Archbishop Alban Goodier selected these saints because in many ways their lives seemed like failures. In the eyes of the world, they amounted to very little--or so it seemed in their own time. In the eyes of God, however, their lives remain as heavenly models for us today!

Two aspects make this volume relevant and timely. First, these saints did not live stellar lives from day one: on the contrary. They inspire exactly because we are able to identify with them, in our own weaknesses. But they completely trusted in God, and immersed in this Love they shone. Second, the archbishop's writing is simply delightful! His accounts of these suffered, troubled yet beautiful lives will read like no other saints' biographies collection.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
2-9-2008

Saints for Young Readers for Every Day

Book cover: 'Saints for Young Readers for Every Day'
Copyright: 
1995
Publisher: 
Pauline Books and Media (Daughters of Saint Paul)
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Rather than take a morning vitamin, our family reads Saints for Young Readers for Every Day every morning! It is a two volume set, with a saint story for every day (sometimes two). The first volume contains saints for January to June, the second volume covers the rest of the year. This hardcover set is a little expensive, but worth the money. We leave it on the kitchen counter, and do a daily reading with breakfast each day. The stories are well-written, engaging, and always one or two pages in length. There are black and white line drawings that accompany some stories. Both volumes are fully indexed. The whole family enjoys the readings, from toddler to teenager. Highly recommended.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Saints of Asia

1500 to the Present
Author(s): 
Vincent J. O'Malley, C.M.
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
221 pages
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

How many Asian saints can you name? Saint Andrew Kim? Saint Paul Miki? Not bad.

We don't tend to learn much about Asian history today, much less about Catholic history in Asia. Did you know that the Catholic faith survived in India from the time of St. Thomas the Apostle? A number of saints in this collection were descended from families who were catechized by St. Thomas!

Saints of Asia is a great place to remedy this whole in today's history studies. It contains about a hundred short biographies of saints and candidates for sainthood who lived and worked in Asia after the year 1500. Also included are the stories of two church approved Marian apparitions that took place in Asia. This is a fascinating and inspiring collection of saints - so much perseverance in the face of terrible persecution! These countries - especially China, India, Japan and Korea - are represented by hundreds of canonized martyrs.

The book is organized according to the Church calendar and so could easily be incorporated into your daily devotions (particularly at a time when you're studying this period in history). For solo reading, it's probably best for teens and adults, though with a little discretion (and help in sorting out the various names and places, which are sometimes presented in a confusing order), it could be read aloud to children much younger.

Helpful appendices and extensive footnotes allow for delving deeper into stories of particular interest.

The Xavier: Missionary and Saint documentary, which is coming to PBS this spring, would make a great springboard for this book.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
2-8-2008
Reviewed by: 

Truth Was Their Star

Book cover: 'Truth Was Their Star'
Author(s): 
Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P.
Copyright: 
1947
Publisher: 
New Hope Publications
Binding: 
Catholic
Number of pages: 
124 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Recently republished by New Hope Publications, the lay Dominican community in New Hope KY, Truth Was Their Star by Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, OP offers a gentle introduction to various Dominican saints. Naturally, since she is a Dominican, she would be interested in sharing the lives of several Dominican saints. While not talking down to the child, the text is written as though speaking to a younger child. Each chapter is really an introduction to a particular saint offering a vignette about his or her life, or encapsulating a series of popular stories about the saint. These stories do not offer an in-depth analysis or completely cover the details of their lives. Each chapter is accompanied by a lovely paper cut silhouette, which Sr. Mary Jean is very famous for.

My one and only complaint with the book is the inaccurate statement in the book that people thought that the world was flat during the time of Christopher Columbus. This can be easily corrected by pointing out to the child that this is untrue. Christopher Columbus believed that the world was round, and therefore was hoping to go to the east by sailing west.

Originally published in 1947, this paperback is 124 pages with a beautiful silhouette on the cover. The suggested reading level is Gr. 6 to adult, but I think a younger child - advanced 3rd grade, 4th or 5th - would enjoy the book. It would also make an ideal read aloud to a younger child.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: