Alicia Van Hecke

The Passion of the Christ (additional review)

Book cover: 'The Passion of the Christ (additional review)'

My husband and I finally went to see the Passion just last night (Monday of Holy Week). It was a very powerful and thought-provoking movie. There are a few things in particular that I think make it stand out from other movies I've seen about the Life of Christ.

"The Shop of Ghosts"

Book cover: '"The Shop of Ghosts"'
Author(s): 
G.K. Chesterton

Found on pages 82-86 of G.K. Chesterton Collected Works Volume XIV, 1993, Ignatius Press, 802 pages, softcover, Catholic perspective

This is a charming and humorous story about the spirit of Christmas through the ages. Good for a chuckle and a little perspective.

The volume in which this story can be found is available from Ignatius Press
You can also read this story online by clicking here

The Story of the Other Wise Man

Book cover: 'The Story of the Other Wise Man'
Author(s): 
Henry Van Dyke

This is the intriguing and classic story of Artaban, the "other" wise man who searches for Jesus his whole life while "foolishly" spending his treasures - which had been intended as a gift for the newborn king - on the poor and needy. A beautiful and touching story, it is quite short, but the vocabulary is challenging enough to be appropriate for upper grade school or high school.

The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty

Book cover: 'The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty'
Author(s): 
Patricia Rasmussen

Snowflakes tell a different sort of Christmas story - the "story" of God's fingerprints in the snowy landscape of winter. (I don't know how anyone can look at the stars or at a snowflake without being drawn in some way to the Creator). It's appropriate all through the winter, but especially relevant at Christmas.

The Miracle of St. Nicholas

Book cover: 'The Miracle of St. Nicholas'
Author(s): 
Gloria Whelan

It was the day before Christmas in a modern-day Russian village which has lived through the closing of their church, St. Nicholas. When the church was first closed, everything inside the church mysteriously disappeared and the priest was gone. Now, even though the soldiers were gone, there seemed to be no way to celebrate Mass on Christmas day. Young Alexi questions his babushka about this, but all seems hopeless. Still, she explains that "A miracle happens when God enters into your dream. But first you must have the dream."...

The Legend of the Poinsettia

Book cover: 'The Legend of the Poinsettia'
Author(s): 
Tomie de Paola
Illustrator(s): 
Tomie de Paola

This lovely retelling of an old Mexican legend transports us to the mountains of Mexico, where a young girl, Lucida, prepares for Christmas with her family. Her mother is a fine weaver, and the Padre asks her to make a new blanket for the Baby Jesus. When her mother falls ill, she longs to help finish the blanket, but only seems to make a mess of things. With no gift for the Baby Jesus, Lucida hides and watches the procession from afar.

The Fussy Angel

Book cover: 'The Fussy Angel'
Author(s): 
Mary Arnold

A humorous rendition of Baby Jesus' birthday told from the point of view of "the fussy angel" who wanted things to be just right for the newborn king. The angel complains about the dirty animals, argues with the wise men and tries to make the angelic choirs sing a little quieter. The story has greater depth than what is perceived at first glance. It is about the great and glorious God who loved mankind so much that he was willing to come down to earth and put up with all of our silliness and imperfections.

The Friendly Beasts

Book cover: 'The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol'
Illustrator(s): 
Tomie de Paola

"The Friendly Beasts" is a lovely old English Christmas carol (the words and music are included in their entirety on the last page). Tomie de Paola has drawn beautiful pictures, in his signature style, to accompany the words to this song. (We didn't know the song before we came across the book. Now we tend to sing it, rather than read it, to the children.) It has been a favorite in our family partly because of it's beautiful simplicity and is frequently requested (even when it's nowhere near Christmastime) by our younger children.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Book cover: 'The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey'
Author(s): 
Susan Wojciechowski

This is a lovely story about a gruff woodcarver who is commissioned to make a Nativity Set for a young boy and his mother. The story is beautifully written and lovingly illustrated. This is such a favorite for my children that we keep it out year-round and it has been read over and over and over again. This is simply a can't-miss book - at least check it out from your library. When you buy a copy, I certainly recommend the hardcover for durability.

Stations of the Cross for Children Poster Set

Book cover: 'Stations of the Cross for Children Poster Set'
Author(s): 
Julianne Will

This is a very nice, very inexpensive (about $10), large-size set of the Stations of the Cross (created especially for children) appropriate for homes and classrooms. The drawings are simple (they remind me a little of Tomie dePaola's drawings) and what my husband would describe as "sanitized". Our first inclination was to think these were too sanitized, but when we compared them to our more "traditional" set (which cost us $30 and are about half the size), we realized that the other set, too was without blood.

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